Both teams would want to begin their respective campaigns with a win.

The AFC Cup campaign for Indian sides ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC begins on August 18. In the first game, both teams will clash head-to-head in Group D of the competition. Understandably, both ATKMB and BFC are eager to move into the knockout rounds and hence anything but a win will be disappointing.

The sides have met on numerous occasions in the ISL already, but are yet to lock horns on the continental stage. BFC play their first group game just three days after securing qualification for the competition. Antonio Habas’ side, meanwhile, last played a competitive game in March. While the Blues might have the edge in terms of fitness, the sheer quality of the Mariners ensures that this game will be a real slobber-knocker.

The Stakes

ATK Mohun Bagan

ATK Mohun Bagan are arguably the favourites in Group D because of the sheer pedigree of talent that they have. They were the second-best team in all the important departments last season. They finished second in the league stages before also coming up short as the runners-up in the ISL playoffs.

Since then, they’ve worked hard on their squad over the summer. The Mariners have signed Hugo Boumous for a record fee from Mumbai City. Quality additions of domestic stars like Ashutosh Mehta, Liston Colaco and Amrinder Singh have been made. ATKMB have ensured they go into the AFC Cup with a stacked squad, well capable of competing against formidable opponents.

The Mariners, however, must also start their AFC Cup campaign with a win to set things up nicely for the remaining games. A draw or loss can cause tensions to set in, which could cause upsets in the coming games. With ATKMB eager to get past the group stages, starting with a win is extremely important to help make that dream a reality.

Bengaluru FC

For BFC, the AFC Cup is sort of a road to redemption for their domestic league disappointments. Infact, the 2020-21 ISL campaign was their worst ever in the competition. They missed out on qualifying for the playoffs for the first time, finishing seventh.

However, things have improved since Marco Pezzaiuoli’s arrival. They have made some smart recruitment and have qualified for the AFC Cup after winning two rounds of playoffs! And now, it’s time to take that flow forward into qualifying for the knockout rounds and trying to replicate their heroics from 2016.

They go into this competition with a lot to prove and should play with a renowned sense of vigour. Knowing how the Mariners are the favourites to top the group, BFC will be determined to win this one. After suffering bitter defeats in the ISL to ATKMB, this is their shot at revenge. As Pezzaiuoli aims to make a big impact at BFC, there’s a lot at stake in the AFC Cup – which makes winning this even more important.

Team News

There’s not much to report from ATK Mohun Bagan’s camp in the form of injuries or fitness concerns. Among their overseas stars, David Williams is the one player who has trained the least during pre-season, as he arrived late due to visa and travel issues. If Antonio Habas decides not to field him in the playing XI, they can use only three foreigners as Williams is their AFC-registered signing.

Bengaluru FC will have doubts over the availability of Ashique Kuruniyan who suffered an injury and got substituted off in the 73rd minute of the Club Eagles game. Marco Pezzaiuoli would not want to miss out on such an important player and initial assessments from Bengaluru FC have established that he could be fine to play against ATK Mohun Bagan.

Predicted Lineups

ATK Mohun Bagan (3-4-1-2)

Amrinder Singh (GK); Pritam Kotal, Carl McHugh, Sumit Rathi; Ashutosh Mehta, Lenny Rodrigues, Deepak Tangri, Subhasish Bose; Hugo Boumous; David Williams, Roy Krishna.

Bengaluru FC (4-4-2)

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Alan Costa, Sarthak Golui, Yrondu Musavu-King, Ashique Kuruniyan; Udanta Singh, Suresh Wangjam, Jayesh Rane, Ajay Chhetri, Cleiton Silva, Sunil Chhetri.

Man To Watch

Roy Krishna (ATK Mohun Bagan)

For ATKMB to prosper in the AFC Cup, their hitman Roy Krishna has to be firing on all cylinders. The Fijian scored 14 goals and registered eight assists for the Mariners in the ISL last season.

With his unpredictable movement, link-up play and finishing ability, Krishna has the tools to torment any defender in the AFC Cup. He’ll hope to start that by getting a few past domestic rivals BFC in this big clash.

Cleiton Silva (Bengaluru FC)

Cleiton Silva might’ve had a topsy-turvy ISL campaign, but is well suited for the AFC Cup. The Brazilian forward’s clever movement around the final third, adaptability to games and trickery can cause problems to defenders.

His swift finishing quality, ability from set-pieces and impressive chemistry with the BFC should help Silva torment ATKMB’s new-look defence – which is without their stars Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri.

Telecast

The match will kick off on August 18, 2021, at 4:30 PM IST at the Maldives National Football Stadium. The match will be shown on the Star Sport Network and be available to watch on Hotstar and JioTV as well.

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