AFC Cup Rival Watch: ATKMB, Gokulam Kerala face Bashundhara Kings
(Courtesy : BDK Media)
The Bangladeshi giants are close to clinching a thirc successive BPL title.
ATK Mohun Bagan are gearing up to participate in the group stages of the AFC Cup 2022. The Mariners will play all their games on home turf in Kolkata, playing one game each against three of their opponents.
In their group, ATKMB are paired alongside fellow Indian side Gokulam Kerala, Maldives’ Maziya S&RC as well as Bangladeshi giants Bashundhara Kings. In terms of quality and threat, the Bashundhara Kings pose the biggest challenge for the Mariners in the group stages.
The reigning Bangladesh Premier League champions are the best club the country has to offer and boasts some quality players. Here we take a deeper look into the club.
Bashundhara Kings are flying in their current Bangladesh Premier League campaign. They sit in first place in the league standings and are four points ahead of second-place Abahani Dhaka. In their last 10 games, the Kings have won eight and drawn two games.
In those 10 games, they have scored 31 goals – including three against Sheikh Jamal and two against Abahani Dhaka. The Kings have only lost one game all season in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). They are the favourites to lift the title with eight games remaining this season. Bashundhara Kings are the defending champions and can become the second team in BPL to successfully defend their title in three consecutive seasons.
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About The Team
Representing the area of Bashundhara in Bangladesh, Bashundhara Kings have evolved into one of the best teams in the country since their inception in 2013. Indeed, the Kings only started their professional journey from 2016 onwards.
They earned promotion to the BPL in 2019 and have been a dominant force in the competition ever since. Indeed, the Kings have won the last two editions of the BPL, as well as winning the Bangladesh Federation Cup twice in the last three years.
In terms of comparison, the Kings’ evolution has been similar to how Bengaluru FC established themselves as one of India’s best clubs since their inception in 2013.
Spaniard Oscar Bruzon has been Bashundhara Kings’ manager since 2018 and played a major role in establishing the side as Bangladesh’s most successful club in recent years. The Spaniard had a very short-lived playing career, having only made around 70 appearances in Spain’s lower divisions.
As a manager, the Spaniard has been a bit of a journeyman in the last decade. He also has quite a bit of experience in Indian football too. Bruzon worked as Nicolas Anelka’s assistant coach at Mumbai City for the 2015/16 season in which they finished in sixth place.
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He then worked as an assistant coach at Mallorca next season as they dropped from the Segunda Divison in Spain. Bruzon returned to India in 2017 and was appointed the manager of Mumbai FC in a disastrous campaign. He failed to stop them from getting relegated to the I-League second division before leaving the club.
Bruzon was appointed as Bashundhara Kings’ manager in 2018 following a brief successful spell in Maldives. During his time in Maldives as head coach of New Radiant SC, Bruzon won three titles. The Spaniard has further fetched success with the Kings. He has led Bashundhara Kings to two Bangladesh Premier League titles, two Bangladesh Federation Cups and an Independence Cup title.
Players to Watch
Robson Azevedo da Silva (Robinho)
Brazilian forward Robinho has been the star of Bashundhara Kings’ season so far, taking the Bangladesh Premier League by storm. He’s been spearheading the Kings’ title challenge this season, having scored 11 goals and registered seven assists so far. The Brazilian winger will be one of the biggest threats for Bashundhara in the AFC Cup group stages.
Not only is the 26-year-old blessed with pace and dribbling ability, but his work in the final third is very accurate. Robinho possesses brilliant finishing ability and also the ability to carve out defence-splitting passes with ease. The winger is a delight to watch and will hope to lead from the front in helping his side win their group in the AFC Cup.
A regular for Bangladesh national team, Sohel Rana has fit into the Bashundhara Kings’ system perfectly since joining them in 2021. He’s been a regular in the team’s charge for a third-successive BPL title this season, shining in their midfield. Rana acts as the workhorse in midfield, covering a lot of ground to win back the ball and initiate attacks.
He’s also proven his creative ability by assisting 4 goals so far this season, as well as scoring once. Rana has experience of playing against Indian players, having done so in the past few years when Bangladesh have played against the Blue Tigers. He’ll look to help his side dominate games in the AFC Cup group stages and get wins over their opponents.
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Born in Finland, Tariq Kazi is only the second Bangladeshi descent footballer to represent the country after Jamal Bhuyan. The 21-year-old is a very versatile player. He can slot in as a full-back, centre-back or even a defensive midfielder if required. Having played in a lot of international tournaments in his career, Kazi is likely to feature heavily in the AFC Cup group stages.
The 21-year-old is a hard-working, tough individual who possesses an impressive game-reading ability and makes clutch challenges whenever required. If Bashundhara Kings aspire to maintain a strong defensive record, Kazi will need to be at this best.
What to Expect
Bashundhara Kings will be the ‘giants’ of the group alongside ATK Mohun Bagan, no mistake about that. Their sheer dominance in the Bangladesh Premier League and the quality in their squad make them a menacing threat for any side. Oscar Bruzon’s side will play exciting attacking football with a three-man frontline.
With some in-form foreign players, and a well-oiled system that encourages more risky, expressive football, the Kings should be thrilling to watch and have a strong chance to cause an upset by winning the group if taken for granted.
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