Buoyed by a dominant start, Mohun Bagan Super Giant will be looking to build on its continental aspirations when it takes on Abahani Dhaka from Bangladesh in the AFC Cup playoff match at home in Salt Lake Stadium here on Tuesday.
The Indian Super League champion made a strong start to its campaign by prevailing over Machhindra FC of Nepal (3-1) and cleared the preliminary stage in its first outing of the tournament, at the same venue five days ago. The Mariners will be eager to continue the momentum and progress to the South Zone group stage for which Odisha FC, Bashundhara Kings (Bangladesh) and Maziya Sports and Recreation Club (Maldives) have already qualified.
With the loss against traditional rival, Emami East Bengal in the Durand Cup group stage (on August 12), still rankling with the fans, Mohun Bagan SG head coach Juan Ferrando sought to shift his focus on the continental assignment. “We are still in the pre-season preparation stage but will have to get the team in the competitive mode with so many matches coming so early in the season,” Ferrando said on the eve of his team’s second international assignment.
The ISL champion has sought to be more successful this season and has made significant investments in acquiring more stars in its stable. “It is like a final tomorrow. We have to give our 100 percent and try to get the win,” Ferrando said while hoping for his newly arrived players to settle down as a functional unit. With the tournament regulations allowing six foreigners on the field, Abahani Dhaka arrived with nine foreigners in its squad under its Portuguese head coach Mario Lemos.
Ferrando said the key to his team’s success will be maintaining focus on the game plan. Mohun Bagan enjoys both the home and psychological advantage having beaten the same opposition (3-1) last season to progress to the group league stage.
“It was a different season. They had a different team, so it is very important for us to maintain complete focus and get the job done,” Ferrando wished to be more pragmatic in his approach. Mohun Bagan SG successfully tested its arsenal in the previous match against Machhindra fielding a host of India internationals like Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad, Ahisique Kuruniyan, Anwar Ali and Liston Colaco alongside foreign recruits
like Armando Sadiku, Jason Cummings, Hugo Boumous, Brendan Hamill to make the win look credible. Ferrando hoped for more improvement in the team’s showing when it takes Abahani in the do-or-die match.
Lemos issued a warning to the host saying, “I don’t wish to use the term out of context but my boys are willing to die for their team tomorrow.” Abahani’s Portuguese coach said that his team will balance caution with attack and try to be effective on the field.
“Mohun Bagan is a good side but we will be balancing between parking the bus and building our own attacks... We need to push their (Mohun Bagan’s) players to positions where they are not very comfortable on the pitch,” Lemos said about his team’s plan.
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