The Goan side look to open their accounts in a Group E encounter of the AFC Cup without in-form striker Balwant Singh..Churchill Brothers will look to savour their first win in the AFC Cup this season as they host New Radiant of Maldives in their second group E league match on Tuesday. They had lost the first match of the campaign to Indonesia's Persipura Jayapura, while their opponents are fresh from a victory over Home United.
Churchill were enjoying a nine-match unbeaten run in the domestic competitions before losing 3-0 to chart-toppers Bengaluru in the I-League last weekend. Battling relegation in the league and winning the Federation Cup have seen them exprerience mixed emotions and the AFC Cup provides them a chance of making a mark in the continental arena.
The defending champions of the I-League have suffered a big blow as they are set to be without the services of their top-scorer Balwant Singh who is nursing an injury. Balwant, who has scored 8 goals in the league till now, will be replaced by Cristian Lagos, as the Costa Rican striker makes his comeback after missing out the Bengaluru tie due to personal reasons.
"There are other players who can come into his [Balwant] place. Lagos will be replacing Balwant. Of course he has been scoring with Anthony [Wolfe]. A fit player is always better than an injured star. Definitely Lagos will do well I hope," Mariano Dias, the gaffer of the Goan side remarked in the pre-match press conference.
Adding to his owes, Lalit Thapa and Saran Singh are also out of the reckoning due to injury issues.
New Radiant on the other hand are fresh from their win against Home United at home. The Maldives outfit are the reigning champions of island nation having won the Dhivehi League and the FA cup last season. They have kept a hundred percent record in the league and cup competitions making them a very difficult side to beat.
Although the team from Maldives comprises of quality players, they are well short on match practice. The Dhivehi League has been postponed and that has deprived the most successful team in the history of Maldivian football of any competetive games before their second AFC Cup match.
“We did have a lot of pre-season friendlies, but unfortunately the friendlies we managed to arrange do not provide the club with the match fitness and experience we are looking for. It is quite below par” said their coach Ismail Anil.
Star player of the national team Ali Ashfaq will be missing from their side as the striker has moved to Malaysia. Jonathan Quartey, the Ghanaian defender who joined the rosters in January this year have also not travelled with the team due to a visa problem.
However, Imran Mohammed, the captain of the team sounded content with the bunch of players available to him. "With the players that we have, they are very skillful and performance-wise very fit. So we can bridge the gap" he told the press.
Churchill will hope for a good result from this game to give them a morale boost to combat any relegation fears in the league, besides making their situation better in the AFC Cup. New Radiant however would love to stretch their muscle outside Maldives and take command of the group.
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