Preview: Johor Darul Ta’zim v Bengaluru FC

Defending AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Ta’zim take on Bengaluru FC in a dead rubber at the Tan Sri Dato’ Hj Hassan Yunos Stadium on Wednesday.

Last year’s winners from Malaysia have already booked their spot in the last 16 as winners of the group after claiming a perfect 15 points from their five previous matches.

Indian outfit Bengaluru have also secured qualification to the knockout rounds, albeit as runners-up in the group, after reaching a total of nine points with one match left to play.

Myanmar’s Ayeyawady United and Laos outfit Lao Toyota lie at the foot of the table with three points to show for their efforts.

Mario Gomes’ side takes on Selangor PKNS FC in the final of the Malaysia Cup this weekend and since there is essentially nothing for Johor to gain from Wednesday’s match, expect several changes to be made to the hosts’ side for their midweek fixture.

“I was asked about PKNS FC and the finals of the FA Cup. Let me make this clear. PKNS FC is a good team. But now I am only thinking about Bengaluru FC,” Gomes told the official Johor DT website.

“As a team, we take things game by game. Being consistent is the target. I want to give the chance to a few of our players and hope they will do well. Bengaluru FC is a good team and they have a number of talented players.”

Mohd Safiq, who has scored six goals in this year’s competition to date, as well as star midfielder Hariss Harun are among those expected to be rested for the encounter, but it remains to be seen how many of his regulars Gomes plans to rest.

The I-League champions, meanwhile, are determined to give a good account of themselves against the competition’s form side.

They will be without the services of head coach Ashley Westwood, who was suspended during the match against Laos Toyota last month, with assistant coach Matthew Holland set to take charge of the side on the night.

“What’s always important to us is the performance on the day and what’s more important is the fact that we’ve qualified already. But we will definitely look to come and give a very good account of ourselves,” Holland said during his pre-match press conference.

“We have to be appreciative of the fact that JDT are not just a very, very good team in Malaysia, they are the best. They are backed well and have a lot of support. Hopefully we can do well and get what we deserve on the day.”

“The staff put in a lot when it comes to analysis of opponents. JDT are formidable at home just like a lot of sides are formidable at home and in football you can get a good result. What I can assure you is that we have done our homework as a group of staff, the players are aware of what they need to do and we’ll do our best.”

Although there is little to be gained by the visitors in the context of the AFC Cup, a positive result away to the reigning champions would be a welcome tonic after the Indian champions suffered back-to-back defeats in the Federations Cup recently.

For Johor, Wednesday’s encounter against a strong side will be the perfect opportunity for some of their fringe players to showcase their skills ahead of this weekend’s domestic cup final and with the knockout stages in the AFC Cup to come.

Catch the action from 8pm on FOX Sports, with kick-off at 8.45pm.

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