TEAM NAME: Abahani Limited Dhaka
HOME GROUND: Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka [Capacity: 36,000]
LEAGUE: Bangladesh Premier League
NICKNAME: 'Sky Blue Brigade'
Head Coach: Drago Mamić (Croatia)
Last season achievements: Champions of Bangladesh Premier League, Champions of Federation Cup, Runners-up Independence Cup
Latest match result: Lost; Mohun Bagan 1-3 Abahani Ltd. Dhaka (4th April 2017, AFC Cup Group E)
Abahani Limited was a club formed in the cradle of Bangladeshi democracy in 1972. Founded by Sheikh Kamal to commemorate his father and father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur's return from Pakistani prison, Abahani was to become the beacon of sports in the capital city of Dhaka for years to come.
Immediate success was achieved as they went on to win the Dhaka League for eleven times till 2001. Abahani have also won the Federation Cup nine times and is counted to be one of the nation's best clubs alongside Dhaka Mohammedan and most recently Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi - their arch rivals.
They took to the emergence of the Bangladesh Premier League like fish to water. Abahani have won the topmost league a record five times since 2007. The Sky Blues would also be remembered by some Indian football fans as the winners of the 2010 Bordoloi Trophy held in Guwahati.
After doing the double last year, Abahani booked their spot into AFC Cup 2017 Group E with a direct entry after they won the Federation Cup. Weeks later they regained their BPL crown after five years with a historic unbeaten campaign.
Things looked bright for the Dhanmondi giants thereafter as they brought in former Churchill Brothers coach Drago Mamic at the helm to lead them into continental glory in February this year.
They only had ten days to assemble the team ahead of the season and they were knocked out of the Sheikh Kamal Club Cup in the first round itself. Mamić had a tough time to keep hold of star names and English playmaker Lee Andrew Tuck and striker Sunday Chizoba left for pastures new.
However, they have brought in former Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi striker Emeka Darlington in hopes of producing the goods with former Cardiff City attacker Jonathan Brown.
This will be Abahani Limited's fourth AFC Cup appearance. All the other three campaigns have resulted in ouster from the first round itself.
Moreover, they have had past continental experience with the now defunct AFC President's Cup but the Sky Blues won't have any good memories of that considering their disappointing performances in five editions.
In their first game at home against Maldives' Maziya S&RC, Mamić's side were beaten 2-0. That was followed by a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Mohun Bagan at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Calcutta earlier this month - rooting them at the foot of the table.
Lee Tuck's departure from the side affected the team leaps and bounds and that was pretty much evident in their opening games against Maziya and Mohun Bagan. Bangladesh's transfer window opened in April and a new signing is expected anytime soon.
Conceding five goals in two games will be a tough bruise to overturn as fingers have been pointed on the leaky backline. Another major concern is the unavailability of Ghanaian defender Samad Yussif who failed to procure an Indian visa. Nasiruddin Chowdhury will take his place at the heart of defense.
Yussif might join the squad on Tuesday morning if at all his paperwork is approved by the visa authorities. Mamić though will miss the six players who left the club at the start of the season viz. Topu Barman, Ariful Islam, Hemanta Vincent, Shakil, Jewel Rana and striker Sunday Chizoba.
|Players To Watch Out For|
Emeka Darlington : The 28-year-old Nigerian goes about his business with nonchalance. Having been an integral part of Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi's triumphs over the past two seasons, the goal machine can now be expected to shoulder the majority of the scoring responsibilities for Abahani.
Sohel Rana: Rana is also part of the Sheikh Jamal contingent that switched to Abahani earlier this year. The 22-year-old midfielder has secured a berth in the national team with his inspired performances and he will be the driving force of the club in the AFC Cup as well from the centre of the park.
Head Coach Drago Mamić:
"We will be playing against the defending champions of India and also finalists of the last AFC Cup. We know everything about this club (Bengaluru FC) but we must take care of our performance, to be better than last time."
"We can't go there like favourites and promise somebody that we are going there for the win because it will be ridiculous in my opinion. I think everybody who is thinking rationally must know at the moment that Bengaluru is a better team than us. We must play something which can ensure defence."
GOALKEEPERS: 1. MD Sahidul Alam, 25. Sultan Ahmed Sakhil, 30. Titu Chowdhury, 33. Anisur Rahman;
DEFENDERS: 3. MD Waly Faisal, 5. Samad Yussif, 14. MD Mamun Miah, 19. MD Tutul Hosain Badsha, 22. Rayhan Hassan, 27. MD Yeasin Khan, 35. MD Nasiruddin Chowdhury;
MIDFIELDERS: 6. Emon Mahmud, 8. Pranotosh Kumar Das, 9. Sohel Rana, 11. MD Faisal Mahmood, 36. Imtiaz Sultan (Jitu);
FORWARDS: 13. MD Atiqur Rahman, 15. Saad Uddin, 20. MD Ziban, 23. Jonathan Brown, 24, Shahedul Ahmed Shahed, 29. Emeka Onuoha Darlington, 31. Rubel Miya, 32. Didarul Alam, 34. Munna Yeamin Ahmed.
Follow Swapnaneel Parasar on Twitter - @Swapyo