JDT, Bengaluru begin AFC Champions League campaigns

Malaysian Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim and last year’s AFC Cup runners up Bengaluru FC are in action tonight as they attempt to progress to the AFC Champions League group stages.

2015 AFC Cup winners JDT will play Thailand’s Bangkok United in the second preliminary stage with the winners going on to face a final qualifying game in Japan against J.League 1 side Gamba Osaka.

The Malaysian side will be hoping to improve their record against teams from their northern neighbour after having lost to Thai teams in the previous two years, going down 3-0 to Bangkok Glass in 2015 and losing out on penalties to Muangthong United at the same stage last year.

JDT will play their first continental match under new head coach Benjamin Mora after the surprise parting of ways with Mario Gomez earlier this month. Mora will field a much changed squad following the departure of several members of JDT’s foreign contingent, including Argentine strike duo Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero.

Singapore international midfielder Hariss Harun will also be missing after the club announced he will be going out on loan. Their replacements include Argentine trio striker Brian Ferreira, midfielder Gonzalo Cabrera and Jerónimo Barrales.

Argentine-Iraqi forward Ferreira and Cabrera opened their domestic accounts for the club on Friday night with a goal each in JDT’s 3-1 win over Felda United.

Bengaluru in Jordan

Last year’s AFC Cup runners up Bengaluru get their campaign underway against Al Wehdat of Jordan, with the victors facing the prospect of a tie against Al Wahda of the UAE .

Bengaluru are aiming to become the first Indian side to qualify for group stages of the AFC Champions League but face a tough task against the Jordanian champions.

That task will be even tougher considering the form of the two sides, Bengaluru have lost their last two domestic matches while Al Wehdat are on a run of four successive wins.

Coach Albert Roca is under no illusions of how hard it will be.

Bengaluru are hoping for more continental success.

“The AFC Champions League is the highest level of competition in the continent, so I don’t think I need to spell out how tough a test this will be. We are coming up against a team that is far more experienced than us but we have to be ready for every sort of challenge if we want to consistently compete in Asia,” said Roca.

In the other matches, conquerors of Tampines Rovers, Global FC of the Philippines take on Brisbane Roar in Australia and Thailand’s Sukhothai FC play host to Yadanarbon of Myanmar. The final match of the evening sees FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan take on Bahrain’s Al Hidd Club.