Rival Watch: Who are ATK Mohun Bagan’s AFC Cup opponents Kuala Lumpur City FC
The Malaysian side defeated PSM Makassar in the ASEAN Zonal final to earn qualification.
ATK Mohun Bagan are back in action in the AFC Cup 2022. The Mariners will face Malaysian side Kuala Lumpur City FC in the Inter-Zonal semi-finals at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. A win can help them book a place in the Inter-Zonal playoff final.
ATK Mohun Bagan might have a home advantage on their hand, but it won’t be an easy task for the Kolkata giants. Kuala Lumpur City have the experience to upset better sides on their day. They’ve been an ever-present figure in Malaysian football and are vying to go all the way this season.
The Mariners can’t afford to underestimate their opponents because there are no easy teams in the AFC Cup. With that being said, we’ll take a deep dive into Kuala Lumpur City FC and their history.
Kuala Lumpur City haven’t had the best of campaigns in the Malaysian Premier League so far this season. They’re currently in fifth position in the league, having won only six out of their 16 games. They are 20 points away from the league leaders and are yet to hit top gear.
However, the City boys are heading into the game with some positive form. They have won three out of their last four games in all competitions. This includes wins in the AFC Cup zonal semi-finals and zonal finals as well.
About The Team
Formed back in 1978 as Federal Territory, Kuala Lumpur City FC have represented Malaysian football well across Asia. They’ve won the Malaysian First Division title twice as well as the second division title.
In terms of their success in Asia, the City Boys won the ASEAN Champions’ Cup title twice in the late 1980s. They’ve won the Malaysian Cup four times as well as the Malaysian FA Cup three times, securing a lot of silverware over the years.
They’re playing in the AFC Cup for the first-time, and will aim to bring more pride to Malaysian football by pulling off an upset in Kolkata.
Croatian gaffer Bojan Hodak has embraced the Malaysian football scene ever since he started his managerial career. The 51-year-old has been working in a managerial role in Malaysia for over 15 years and has managed six teams – including the Malaysia U-19 team as well.
In his professional career, the Croatian played for a number of Asian teams. He has often stated that he deems development of Malaysian football as his responsibility.
His stint as the Kuala Lumpur manager – since he took over in 2021 – has been a bit topsy turvy. The 51-year-old helped them win the Malaysian Cup last year, but only has a 42.86% win record so far. Having guided the City Boys to their best-ever place in the AFC Cup, Hodak will look to continue their dream run and outwit the Mariners in their own yard.
Players To Watch
The captain of the Kuala Lumpur City side, Paulo Josue leads the team from the front. The 33-year-old has been enjoying a solid season, having scored 10 goals and provided seven assists. That includes four goals in as many AFC Cup games, playing an influential role in helping the City Boys get where they are.
Josue is an instinctive, unpredictable attacking midfielder who loves to play in a free-attacking role. His smart movement, decisive finishing and creativity make him a difficult man to keep a lid on. The Brazilian will hope to help his side continue their continental fairy tale and will aim to trouble the ATKMB defenders.
Australian defender Giancarlo Galilfuoco creates a similar impact for the Malaysian side as defenders like Mourtada Fall do in the ISL. The physical defender loves to tussle it out with forwards and beat them in the final third.
Galilfuoco has the ability to win key duels and aerial battles. Also, his impressive game reading has helped him run the backline of the team. The Australian defender is also a possible goal option, knowing how to convert from set-pieces.
The third-highest scorer for Kuala Lumpur City this season, Zhafri Yaya is among their most prominent Malaysian players. The 27-year-old can play anywhere across the midfield, and is often given the license to roam forward as well.
He possesses a decent passing ability, allowing him to quickly advance the ball to his forwards and help kick-start transitions. Yaya is also prolific when it comes to scoring goals and loves to tussle it out in the midfield. The midfielder will take the fight to the Mariners’ midfield and make it very difficult for them to control the game.
What to Expect
Kuala Lumpur City FC have pulled off quite a few surprises already in the AFC Cup. They’ve come a long way into the competition and are not one to be taken lightly. The Malaysian side packs a lot of unpredictable firepower and is a balanced team with quality foreign players.
The visitors won’t settle and defend in Kolkata. They will try and play on the ball and should look to make things exciting at the Salt Lake Stadium. The City Boys will hope their strong fitness levels and match sharpness can give them an edge over the Mariners, who are still in their pre-season.
Kuala Lumpur FC can definitely conjure up a few twists in the tale and ruin the party for the Mariners on Wednesday. Unless the ATK Mohun Bagan players put in their 200% to nullify their threat, they could face a stinging reality check in this game.