Mohun Bagan Super Giant will be looking to turn a fresh page as it begins its international calendar with a clash against Nepalese club Machhindra FC in the second stage preliminary round of the AFC Cup south zone play-offs, at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday.
With the wounds of the season’s first Kolkata derby loss (0-1) against traditional rival Emami East Bengal still fresh, Mohun Bagan will be eager to make amends with a positive result to quickly put the big disappointment behind.
FOLLOW THE MATCH LIVE HERE: Mohun Bagan Super Giant vs Machhindra FC LIVE
Mohun Bagan, with the pre-season preparations barely a few weeks old, finds itself in a crosscurrent of campaigns.
Coach Juan Ferrando has to quickly put behind the euphoria of winning the Indian Super League last season and deal with overlapping assignments as the new season puts too many activities for his side that is still in the assembly mode.
The Spanish coach is now faced with the prospect of doing a tight-rope walk and preparing a competitive side with the team having to play a match without much rest.
“We definitely face the risk of injuries, which we can ill afford. The challenge is to prepare the side for a long season while expecting the players to come out of their best in every match while we are still in the pre-season preparations,” Ferrando said ahead of his team’s new assignment.
“In this situation, we will assess the fitness of the players and think of the best line-up according to the plan,” he added.
This time his team will have to put on a winning performance or else face an early exit from its only international assignment.
“The match against East Bengal is over and we have to look forward to qualifying for the next round of the AFC Cup. The team is going through a process as we have some new names on the side who need to adapt to our system,” Ferrando tried to put his team’s current situation in perspective.
Home advantage is among the big positives that Ferrando can look forward to. With India having a better international ranking than Nepal, Machhindra FC had to travel to Kolkata and plot its next move after having beaten Paro FC of Bhutan at home in the first stage of the playoffs (Mohun Bagan didn’t have to play this stage).
“Mohun Bagan is a star-studded side. It is unfortunate that they lost their previous match (against East Bengal) but they are a very good attacking side. We will have to make our defence strong and create opportunities to score goals,” Machhindra FC coach Kishor Kumar KC said.
The two-time Nepal A division champion will have its task cut out as Ferrando’s side look to rebound back from the earlier disappointment. “We know our opponent is big but we are mentally strong and eager to work hard to accept the challenge,” said the Machhindra captain Bishal Shrestha.
Mohun Bagan’s journey in the continental competition has not been very encouraging in the recent past as the team failed to move beyond the inter-zonal semifinal stage, prompting its owners to go for a big recruitment drive this time.
With international names like Australian World Cupper Jason Cummings, Albanian forward Armando Sadiku and Indian national team players like Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul Samad and Anwar Ali joining its ranks, Mohun Bagan SG is expected to make its continental performance memorable this time.
Kick-off Time: 7 PM IST
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