It will be the first meeting of two Indian clubs in continental competition…
Domestic dominance is a sign of the quality that a football club possesses in its ranks. However, the truer yardstick for a club’s power is how it performs on a continental level. This is what has set the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus apart from the rest of the pack in Europe.
There are no exceptions for this prerequisite in India. Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC are heavyweights in their own right on the Indian domestic football circuit. The Mariners are one of the country’s oldest and most renowned clubs with many a former India player donning the famous Green and Maroon.
Bengaluru on the other hand have set the standards on how a football club should be run and in the process have two I-League titles, a Federation Cup and an AFC Cup Final appearance to their name in just three seasons. This season, both clubs have seen mixed fortunes. The Mariners are in the title race albeit inconsistency being their major problem. The Blues on other hand are facing a confidence crisis as they have racked up a solitary win in their last seven outings, the three points being a hard fought win over Minerva Punjab.
While the duo met in a pulsating I-League clash at the Kanteerava as early as March 11th, the setting for their next meeting is the AFC Cup, a competition both teams are familiar with. It is an opportunity for both clubs to have a fresh start to things without the pressure of a title race or form hanging over their heads.
For Bengaluru coach Albert Roca, the game represents the perfect opportunity to ignite their faltering campaign as he can point to the club’s famous run to the Final last year which included a superb 3-1 comeback win over reigning champions Johor Tazim. The team then had looked incisive and sharp as they overcame an early goal to take a famous win. They would need a similar sort of performance if they are to entertain any hopes of beating a Mohun Bagan side that showed their mettle in the 0-0 draw on Saturday where they defended against incessant Bengaluru attacks with a man down.
For Mohun Bagan, the game is a chance at undoing the wrong as they were the team that worked their opposition goalkeeper more than Bengaluru and had a goal disallowed to boot on Saturday. It would give them great confidence if they are able to pull off a positive result in one of the most intimidating arenas in the I-League. Bengaluru’s run to the final has broken the long standing jinx that Indian clubs cannot cut it at the highest level in Asia. The Mariners will be hoping that they can replicate a similar sort of performance and take the momentum into an I-League campaign where they still stand a chance of winning silverware.