The Blues defeated Tribhuwan Army in the previous qualifier to setup the playoffs clash against Club Eagles.
Bengaluru FC are one step away from qualifying for AFC Cup 2021, but an intimidating battle against Club Eagles awaits. After Bangladesh-based Abahani Dhaka had to forfeit the match due to the COVID-19 restrictions in their country, the Eagles have received somewhat of a free pass to face the Indian Super League (ISL) in the ‘finale’ of the South Asian Zone Qualifiers on May 11.
While BFC defeated Tribhuwan Army Club 5-0 in their last qualifier, things probably won’t be as easy this time around. Club Eagles have been one of the top sides of Maldives’ Dhivehi Premier League over the last few years. There will be plenty of interesting individual battles on the pitch.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the key battles for the crucial AFC Cup Qualifier:
3. Cleiton Silva Vs Elsayed Mahmoud
Cleiton Silva was in splendid form in Bengaluru FC’s last game against Tribhuwan. He scored a brace and also played a big part in setting up the other goals. The Brazilian forward seems to be giving his side their money’s worth for relying on him to lead the line. Despite it being so, he will be under pressure to replicate his heroics against Club Eagles. He will face-off against intimidating Egyptian defender Elsayed Mahmoud.
The 30-year-old centre-back is a brute capable of frustrating forwards with his sturdy defensive skill-set. It’s safe to say that Silva has to be at his sharpest to get the better of the defender. With Mahmoud being a proactive figure, Silva must put in another venomous performance on May 11.
2. Rahul Bheke Vs Mohamed Naim
Club Eagles’ left winger Mohamed Naim is arguably their biggest attacking threat. Rahul Bheke has to be at his very best to keep him from scoring. Naaim has been in impressive form for the Eagles this season, scoring four goals in six league games and also playing a big part in securing them a win over Thimphu City in the last round of qualifying.
A tricky attacking star who can bamboozle defenders with his movement, create chances and also get on the end of them, Naim can cause Bengaluru trouble with his proactive approach. Bheke was excellent in the last game, scoring a surprising brace – but he’ll need to be on his toes defensively this time around. The experienced defender needs to mark Naim strongly and make clutch challenges to frustrate him and stop Club Eagles’ supply chain through the left. This could, in turn, force them to think out of the box and buckle under the pressure.
1. Sunil Chhetri Vs Hussain Sifau
The most intriguing battle on the pitch during the Bengaluru FC Vs Club Eagles clash will arguably be the one between the captains Sunil Chhetri and Hussain Sifau. Chhetri is likely to operate from the left wing channel and will be in a direct battle with right-back Sifau, who won’t be backing down without a fight. This tussle can be expected to be aggressive because of how passionate both players are.
Chhetri will look to make good use of his unpredictability and determination to get into promising scoring areas, while Sifau could sacrifice his attacking prowess to mark the Bengaluru FC star out of the game. With Chhetri always being at the heart of Bengaluru’s attacking brilliance, this should be an interesting battle of wits – with the hungrier individual likely to come out on top.