The Blues are only one step away from qualifying into the main draw of the competition.
Bengaluru FC will soon be in action in the upcoming AFC Cup qualifier game against Club Eagles. The Indian Super League (ISL) outfit will clash against the club from the Maldives in order to secure a spot in Group D of the AFC Cup (south region). The match will finally take place on August 15, 2021, after facing postponement due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the Maldives.
The game will kick-off at 8:30 PM IST at the Maldives National Football Stadium. The anticipation before the tie is at a high with both teams working hard on their preparations. The sides have not met before, therefore the clash will be even more exciting to watch.
Season so far
A lot has changed since the conclusion of the ISL 2020-21 season for the Blues. They have hired Marco Pezzaiuoli as their new head coach and made several changes to the team. The outfit will look to secure an Asian football berth next by winning the upcoming qualifier.
The seventh edition of the ISL was the worst in terms of performance for the Blues in their history. They missed out on the playoffs qualification for the first time ever. The lacklustre display also led to the dismissal of former head coach Carles Cuadrat. However, their last match in the AFC Cup Playoffs against Tribhuwan Army finished on a positive note as the Blues registered a 5-0 comfortable win.
Club Eagles last played Thimpu FC of Bhutan and secured a 2-0 victory in the preliminary round 1 of the qualifiers. Their second round encounter against Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka did not go ahead, however. This was because the Bangladeshi club forfeited the competition due to COVID-19.
During the 2019-20 season, Club Eagles finished behind champions Maziya Sports and Recreation Club. They followed that performance with a fourth-place finish in the 2020-21 league table.
Bengaluru FC are heavy favourites going into the game against Club Eagles. However, the club is in a transitional phase and there is an air of unpredictability. Moreover, the knockout game could spring up a surprise. Furthermore, the outfit will be without Erik Paartalu due to the volatile relationship between the player and the club. Despite all this, Marco Pezzaiuoli will hope to secure his second win in as many games and guide the team to AFC Cup group stages.
Club Eagles walk into this game as the underdogs. The odds are heavily stacked against them as they face former ISL and I-League champions. The outfit will hope to use home advantage as a motivator against the Blues and upset them. A victory will ensure them a spot in the group stages.
The outfit recently announced their squad for the AFC Cup qualifier, where the most notable absentee was Australian midfielder Erik Paartalu. The club will also be without Juanan who has moved to Hyderabad FC. Bengaluru FC will field only three foreigners which will most likely include debutant Alan Costa alongside Yrondu Musavu-King in defence. As for assured starters, Cleiton Silva will lead the attacking line alongside Sunil Chhetri. Rohit Kumar and Jayesh Rane could make their debuts as well.
Eagles recently changed seven players in the squad list that was previously submitted for the Qualifiers in May. They brought is some of the biggest names in the local football world for the playoff game. In addition to Maldives national team captain Ali Ashfaq, Akram Abdul Ghanee, Ali Fasir, Mohamed Arif, Ismail Easa, Ahmed Hassan as well as goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal will play for the Maldives’ side.
Club Eagles will go into the tie without Ahmed Rizwan with head coach Mohamed Shazly confirming to local media that the striker is still recovering from an injury.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Lara Sharma, Sharon Padattil
Defenders: Pratik Chaudhari, Wungngayam Muirang, Ajith Kumar, Ashique Kuruniyan, Parag Shrivas, Yrondu Musavu-King, Biswa Darjee, Alan Costa, Sarthak Golui
Midfielders: Suresh Wangjam, Namgyal Bhutia, Jayesh Rane, Danish Farooq, Rohit Kumar, Muhammad Inayath, Ajay Chhetri
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Cleiton Silva, Leon Augustine, Naorem Roshan Singh, Bidyashagar Singh, Sivasakthi Narayanan, Akashdeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh
Goalkeepers: Mohamed Sinnahu, Mohammad Taha
Defenders– Haisham Hassan, Humaid Hussain, Ahmed Numaan, Elsayed Mahmoud, Hussian Sifaau, Hisam Saleem
Midfielders: Areen Abdulla Ibrahim, Ali Solah, Ahmed Samah, Zain Zafar, Hassan Aleef Ibrahim, Mohamed Aflaam Ali, Hussain Ahusam Moosa, Hamdhann Abdul Sattar, Shaifulla Ibrahim, Mossa Abdulla Sameeh, Mohamed Naim, Hassan Raid Ahmed, Imran Nasheed
Forwards: Riham Abdul Ghanee, Ahmed Rizuvan, Ashadh Ali Mohamed Osama Saber Elshihy
Man To Watch
Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
The obvious source of threat from the Blues will come through Sunil Chhetri. He has formed a solid partnership with Cleiton Silva upfront. Chhetri also has the tendency to fall back and get involved in the build-up play as well. This makes him even more dangerous as a player. The 37-year-old scored one of the five goals against Tribhuwan Army FC in their previous match in the qualifiers as well.
Mohamed Naaim (Club Eagles)
Mohamed Naaim was one of the scorers against Thimpu FC in a 2-0 victory. He is a decent attacking midfielder who likes to play off the left flank. The Bengaluru FC defenders will need to be wary of the threat he will pose on Sunday. The Club Eagles star is going to be looking for the slightest slip-up from the Bengaluru FC defenders and pounce on them.
The match will kick-off on August 15, 2021 at 8:30 PM IST at the Maldives National Football Stadium. However, the match will not be shown on television in India.