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AFC Cup 2019: Minerva Punjab to play from Bhubaneshwar

8:47 AM IST 02/02/19
The reigning I-League champions are likely to play their AFC Cup home matches from Bhubaneshwar...

I-League champions Minerva Punjab are likely to play their continental home matches at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar.

It was previously touted that Minerva would play at the TranStadia Arena in Ahmedabad but recent developments have seen the Chandigarh-based side receive a green signal from AFC (Asian Football Confederation) to play at the renovated Kalinga Stadium. 

"Yes we will be using Kalinga. Hopefully that will give us great home advantage. We will start camping there by the end of February or definitely by the end of March to make the most of home advantage," said Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj.

Indian clubs Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab, by virtue of winning the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League respectively in the 2017-18 season, will be battling it out in the continental competition.

In case of Minerva Punjab, they will be up against Iranian club Saipa in the first round of the Preliminary qualifiers of the AFC Champions League (ACL). They will be playing away on February 12, 2019, in a one-off game. In case they negotiate that fixture, Qatar's Al Rayyan await them on February 19, 2019 - another one-off away fixture. 

In case they lose any of these fixtures, the Warriors will drop down straight to the AFC Cup group stages in Group E, where they could potentially lock horns against Chennaiyin FC.

The reigning ISL champions will begin their campaign from the AFC Cup Preliminary / Playoff Stage while their counterparts from the I-League will begin from the AFC Champions League (ACL) preliminary play-off stage.

Chennaiyin FC also need to negotiate a play-off round before securing their spot in the group stages.

The Preliminary stage will see Sri Lanka's Colombo FC take on Bhutan's Transport United in a two-legged affair. The winner of that affair will play ISL champions Chennaiyin FC in the play-off stage in another two-legged tie for a spot in the group stages.  

If they do qualify they would face Minerva Punjab at the Kalinga Stadium on April 3.