Bengaluru eye third straight win against Abahani

JSW Bengaluru

Indian powerhouse JSW Bengaluru FC will look to make it three wins from three in the AFC Cup when they host Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani Limited Dhaka on Tuesday.

The defending I-League champions and 2016 AFC Cup runners-up already find themselves in a very strong position in Group E, three points clear at the top after collecting a full haul of points from their opening two games against Mohun Bagan and Maziya.

In contrast, Abahani have suffered successive defeats to those same two teams, and their task won’t get any easier as they make the trip to India.

The Sky Blues have had several problems to contend with off the pitch, making their job that much harder on it.

Aside from losing five players and facing other injury issues, Abahani have also lost defender Samad Yussif after he was left at home due to visa complications.

Croatian coach Drago Mamic knows they face a tough task against the Indian champions, but wants his side to produce an improved performance following their 3-1 loss to Mohun Bagan.

“We will be playing against the defending champions of India and also finalists of the last AFC Cup. We know everything about this club [Bengaluru] but we must take care about our performance, to be better than last time,” said Mamic.

“We played very a good match against Mohun Bagan in the first half and that was an improvement but we must start thinking about how to prolong this performance to be very good for more than only one half.”

With few options available to him, Mamic knows his team must adopt a defensive mindset.

“We can’t go there like favourites and promise somebody that we are going there for win because it will be ridiculous in my opinion,” Mamic said. “I think everybody who is thinking rationally must know at the moment that Bengaluru is a better team than us. We must play something which can ensure defence.”

Bengaluru have their own selection headaches to contend with, as they will be without suspended duo Cameron Watson and Sandesh Jhingan.

“Cameron and Sandesh are vital players and will be missed, but we have a squad that’s capable of stepping up when the need arises,” said Bengaluru coach Albert Roca.

Bengaluru will be feeling confident after impressive I-League wins over Aizawl FC and, most recently, Shillong Lajong this past weekend, even if it does mean they have little time to recover for Tuesday’s match.

“The schedules haven’t made things easy for us but we’ve never been a team that moans,” said Roca. “We’re hoping to handle this situation as well as we can. The new format of the AFC Cup doesn’t allow us the luxury of even one bad game, so we’re going to have to put everything behind us and get the job done.”

As usual, star marksman Sunil Chhetri will be the main attacking threat for Bengaluru. He has been in good scoring form of late, and will certainly be eyeing more goals on Tuesday.