Bengaluru FC will need to beat Abahani Limited Dhaka in their last group match of the AFC Cup in Dhaka and hope that Aizawl FC do a favour to them elsewhere in another encounter if they have to advance to the knock-out stage of the tournament.
A win against Abahani Limited at the Bangabandhu National Stadium will not be enough for Bengaluru FC as a similar result for the Maldivian side New Radiant against Aizawl FC in Guwahati will see the Male-based side through to the next round as Group E toppers.
In that situation, both Bengaluru and New Radiant will be on same 15 points but the Maldivian side will progress further as they have a better goal difference in the head-to-head comparison between the two sides.
Bengaluru had beaten New Radiant 1-0 at home while the Maldivian side emerged 2-0 victorious in the second leg, thereby giving them a better goal difference which will the deciding factor in such a situation under the tournament rules.
Thus, Albert Roca’s men will be hoping that Aizawl FC claim a point or more against New Radiant in Guwahati tomorrow if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for knock-out stages for a fourth successive year.
“It’s true that we are in a position where a win may not be enough to qualify, but it has been made clear to the players that we have to remain focused on the task ahead,” Roca said ahead of the match.
“We cannot take Abahani (Limited Dhaka) lightly, as they are a team with some good players and we have seen that in our travels here before, he added.
Bengaluru’s only previous visit to Dhaka ended in defeat to the Bangladeshi side in the group stages of last year’s AFC Cup campaign with late goals from Saad Uddin and Rubel Miya handing Roca’s men a 0-2 loss.
In a more recent meeting between the sides, Daniel Lalhlimpuia scored a 72nd minute winner at the Kanteerava Stadium in March as the Blues began their continental campaign.
The Saiful Bari Titu-coached Abahani side are out of contention for the knockout stages and have won just one of their five games so far this campaign, a 3-0 away victory in Aizawl – their only win across all competitions in the last four months – but Roca feels there is no room for complacency for his players.
“We have always had close games against Abahani Dhaka, as they are difficult to break down and play a different style of football. The conditions in Bangladesh are also quite different from what we are used to, so we will have to be wary if we are to do well and take anything away from this game,” the Spaniard said.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru were dealt a late blow when winger Boithang Haokip suffered an injury that kept him out of the traveling squad while left-back Nishu Kumar has joined the team from Kolkata, where he was in action with the club’s reserve squad against Mohammedan Sporting in the 2nd Division League.
Abahani will be missing the services of midfielder Mohammad Fahad, along with the Nigerian duo of attacker Sunday Chizoba and defender Ndukaku Alison who are all suspended.