Bengaluru FC scuttle into their final Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Cup group E tie in the most jovial of spirits. Having won the Federation Cup last time out, Bengaluru know that a place in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinals is just a win away as Maziya Sports and Recreation (S & RC) await as the away side at the Sree Kanteerva stadium, in Bengaluru, on 31st May, 2017.
It's been a see-saw season for the Blues, one which has seen them quiver in their fettle as the domestic league's best team. Surrendering their crown to Aizawl FC, the Jindal Steel Works (JSW) owned team finished a disappointing 4th in the I-League. This was supplanted however, by a superb Federation Cup final win over Mohun bagan, which saw them reinforce their trophy cabinet.
Now, with a possible AFC knockout stage seat on the anvil, Bengaluru will look to ensure the off-season flourish doesn't cease.
On the squad front Albert Roca is expected to have a headache up front, where the only fit striker is Chekiyot Vineeth. Udanta Singh is injured. However, the best bit of news Roca could've expected is the imminent return of Sunil Chhetri, passed fit after suffering a hamstring injury. The bonus for the Spaniard is the availability of Marjan Jugovic, returning from injury.
The Blues will need a victory to progress to the next round whereas a draw will be enough for the Maldivian side. “The game against Maziya is another final, just that there’s no trophy or medal at the end of it. And while we don’t dwell too much on success that we’ve tasted, the team will look to draw inspiration from our Federation Cup triumph. We’ve left things late but we need to back ourselves,” remarked Bengaluru gaffer Roca.
Maziya S & RC approach this fixture in need of a single point to progress to the knockout stages of the tournament at the summit of group E. Though Marjan Sekulovski's side have a better goal difference than their opponents, the competition takes into account head-to-head record for determining places and this is where the bones fall frail.
The record breaking Dhivehi Premier League (DPL) champions lost their first bout with the two time I-League champions, when John Johnson scored a 90th minute winner for the away side then. Resilience has been key for the side from the tiny island nation and their Macedonian coach will look to their performance in India against Bagan, a thumping 5-2 win, to hand them inspiration.
Having been beaten just once in all competition together in their last nine games, the Male-based side will look to see out their Bengaluru expedition in the most assured method possible.
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