Struggling for form, last season I-League champions Chennai City FC face Maziya S&R Club of Maldives in their opening group match of the AFC Cup in Chennai on Wednesday.
Chennai have been inconsistent this season and lie seventh in the I-League points table. The former I-League will need to improve its performance by several notches if it aims to start its campaign on a winning note.
Maziya, on the other hand, would be hoping to continue their good run against Indian teams after beating Bengaluru FC in the play-offs. Chennai midfielder Sandro is back in training and could take field on Wednesday.
For the Maldives team, Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain and Cornelius Stewart will be the key players. The home team coach Akbar Nawas said his players were looking forward to Wednesday’s game.
“I think everyone is excited to play the AFC Cup game. This is very good motivation to play in Chennai and we are looking forward to it,” he said at the pre-match press conference.
Chennai City used to play their I-League matches in Coimbatore but they are back in this southern metropolis for this AFC Cup match.
Maziya have come into the Group E game having beaten the 2018-’19 ISL champions Bengaluru FC in a two-leg affair to qualify for the group stage of the AFC Cup and Nawas said he is aware of the Maldives’ outfit’s capabilities.
“We can’t underestimate them. They are good team and beat Bengaluru FC. Being the only representative from India in the tournament is motivation enough,” he added.
Asked about the upcoming I-League game against Neroca FC, Nawas said, “We are focussed on tomorrow’s game only. Neroca comes next. We’re playing with just four foreigners since the start of the season.”
Maziya S&R Club coach Marjan Sekulovski said the mood in the camp was good and they were looking for a good performance. “Always, the Maziya side play for a win. Tomorrow also we will [try to do that],” he said.