Bengaluru FC will make the short trip to the Maldives to face Maziya Sports and Recreation (S & R) Club on Tuesday, 4th April, in an Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Cup Group E fixture that has had Albert Roca's full attention.
The Maldives based side currently lead the group standings, whereas Bengaluru - having beaten arch-rivals Mohun Bagan on match day one - sit second.
In all honesty, the tie presents a cornucopia of positivity and points for the beleaguered champions of India, which they must grasp. This is far from the ideal situation Bengaluru will have wanted to find themselves in. Having been marooned and sunk in their conquest to retain the I-League title, the AFC Cup presents their only realistic chance for progress this season.
Most recently, the southern Eagles were pummeled in Kolkata, where the Mariners torpedoed them 3-0 in a largely one-sided tie. It will be interesting to see what the effect of a sapping tie has had on the team from the Karnataka capital. It's also important to note here that Maziya's record against their neighbours from across the Indian Ocean is appalling.
In four tries against Indian opposition the Male-based side have recorded zero wins, and just a solitary draw. Bengaluru themselves have beaten the Green and Yellows twice in the AFC Cup.
The Jindal Steel Works (JSW) owned team make the short trip to the Maldives without Rino Anto, Lalthuanmawia Ralte, Fanai Lalchhawnmawia and Gursimrat Singh Gill.
John Johnson, Juanan, Nishu Kumar and Sandesh Jhingan are likely to reprise their defensive roles in the Indian Ocean. The biggest additions to the side are expected to come in the form of Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who'll reinforce the middle of the park, while Sunil Chhetri is to be handed the left hand sided starting berth.
Chekiyot Vineeth will lead the team's attack, with Udanta expected to zip up and down the right-hand side. Lyngdoh needs a purple patch to grace his graph right now, as his forms dipped tremendously over the course of the last few game-weeks. He will be assisted in midfield by Cameron Watson and either Mandar Rao Dessai or Lenny Rodrigues.
Marjan Jugović made his I-League bow with a run-out against Bagan for 27 minutes. He should get a few minutes under his belt as soon as the team wraps up a result on the scoreboard.
A 4-3-3 is expected to be the go-to formation for the Spanish coach.
Maziya Sports & Recreation (S&RC), one of Maldives's most successful sides, head into this tie as the defending champions of the Dhivehi Premier League (DPL). Relatively fresh from their last competitive match, played against AFC Cup opponents Dhaka Abahani on 14th March, the Male-based club will be eager to have a go at the soon to be deposed Indian champions.
The new coach Sekulovski has changed Maziya’s tactics, with him they play more of a passing game and use midfield to launch attacking play rather than flanks. Romanian Andrei Cordos, a strong and physical centre-half has reinforced the rearguard with Amdaan Ali. They're expected to start the tie, with Ashad Ali expected to be the screener ahead of the central defense. He has a reputation of being an aggressive tackler.
Maziya's number nine is favoured to lead the line, with Assadhulla a goal-getter, who is very strong in air and keeps possession well. Serbian Aleksander Rakic is expected to play on the right while, Mohammed Umair is considered the perfect balancing act for the team sieving both attack and defense.
It is quite discernible that a 4-1-4-1 set-up awaits Bengaluru in the opposite half.
The home side's form is impervious to the fourth degree - just one loss in their last five games. The 2014 Federation Cup champions, on the other hand, are stuttering with just two wins in five.
Rain and thunderstorms are forecasted in Male on Tuesday. It's much like Bengaluru's own form. Whether they see past the impervious sea of grey and actually focus the rainbow of form on the pitch to bring about an upswing in the mood in their ranks, still remains to be seen.
Kick off is at 4.30 PM IST from the Rasmee Dhandu stadium.