On Tuesday, it was confirmed that India's sole remaining representative in the AFC Cup 2017 will face North Korea's 4.25 SC in the Inter-Zonal playoff semifinal at a draw held at Kuala Lumpur.
Post the event, Goal caught up with Bengaluru FC's Chief Technical Officer Mandar Tamhane who gave his thoughts on the Blues' little-known opponents.
"All the three teams that reached this stage are also going to be tough. We knew that any team against whom we are going to be drawn against will be tough," he commented.
"About a team from North Korea (4.25 SC), not much is known about the club as not many games were live. So that's something that will be a challenge. But when you reach this stage, you have to be ready for such challenges."
This year, the format of the AFC Cup has been tweaked in favour of the West Zone clubs, with the West Zone champions advancing straight to the final whereas the clubs from the other four zones will have to battle each other for the chance to take on the West Zone champions in the grand final.
When asked whether that makes it harder for the clubs from outside the West Zone to win, Tamhane said, "I don't think so, because at the end of the day it gives you a tag as a certain zonal champion."
"If India is to have three slots in Asia, it is important that the club (representing India) has to perform well. In this format, only one club is going to reach the knock-out stage because we are all going to be in the South Zone. That's something that we feel could have been better because two clubs (from India) have reached the knock-out stages," he expressed.
Mandar also stated that coach Albert Roca's aim would be to go one better than they did last season and win the tournament outright and touched upon the Spaniard's success in the tournament last season, where he guided the team to the final.
However, he did admit there were concerns about the team's composition with uncertainties prevailing over the proposed roadmap for Indian football.
"Now the next step would be to win the championship. Our technical staff would remain the same. When we reached the final last year, we had Albert Roca as the head coach and he continues to be so for the coming season also. That will help us because we know how to play the way he wants our boys to play.
"What is going to be challenging is, with the circumstances back home (India), whether there is going to be a merger between the I-League and the ISL (Indian Super League). Then there is likely to be a player draft for which the rules will come out soon. If that happens, our Indian players will be new and we won't have the core of our team which we were able to maintain in the last four years," he elaborated.
"For us, it is a very proud thing that we have been able to hold on to almost 75 percent of our squad over the past four years. So that is something that is probably going to be a hindrance but we have to face it."