Their hopes of Indian Super League top spot dashed, a “tired” Bengaluru FC would look for some solace when they take on Maziya Sports and Recreation club of Maldives in the AFC Cup play-offs first leg match in Male on today (Wednesday).
Indian Super League defending champions Bengaluru FC are out of contention for the league phase top spot, which guarantees an automatic sport in the AFC Champions League next season. Their hopes were dashed with a shock 1-2 defeat against Kerala Blasters on Saturday.
Despite having qualified for the AFC Cup play-offs stage with a massive 10-1 aggregate win over Bhutan’s Paro FC last week, Bengaluru FC boss Carles Cuadrat said his side will have to work hard to claim a result in humid conditions.
“I remember winning against Maziya S&RC with a late goal and when New Radiant got the better of us in 2017. We are in a good place with the big win in this competition against Paro FC, but this is a completely different situation and previous results don’t matter,” Cuadrat said.
The Blues will be without skipper Sunil Chhetri, who is recovering from a muscle injury, while midfielder Wangjam Suresh Singh is serving a one-game suspension, having picked up yellow cards in both clashes against Paro FC.
The winners of the Bengaluru-Maziya play-off will advance to Group E of the AFC Cup alongside Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings, Chennai City FC of India and TC Sports Club of Maldives.
Bengaluru FC’s first win in continental competition came against Maziya, and despite having the upper hand in clashes between the two sides, Cuadrat maintained that past form counts for little.
“It’s true that we have had a decent run against teams from Maldives. But if you notice how we won some of the games, it was tough. Nishu scored in injury time at Kanteerava once, Johnson scored late on in the Maldives. It’s difficult to say that we are favourites,” he said.
Cuadrat admitted that Bengaluru are struggling with fatigue.
“We don’t have that many games in India as compared to other countries. We have a number of games added up when you play the AFC competitions, so it’s a natural situation that the players aren’t used to that, and get tired.”
The Marjan Sekulovski-coached Maziya side qualified to the play-offs rounds with victory on away goals over Bangladeshi Premier League side Abahani Dhaka, having returned with a 2-2 result from the Bangabandhu National Stadium in the first leg.
CLICK here for to watch LIVE streaming. The match will kick off at 4.30 pm IST.