Bengaluru: It’s not the first time Bengaluru FC have found themselves in this position. Two seasons ago, the Garden City side were in a somewhat similar situation heading into the final day of the I-League.
Win the match, win the title. Unfortunately for them, when the fat lady started singing, BFC were left high and dry. The ghosts of the past still haunts them to this day. Ask any player or fan and they will tell you of their the heartbreak.
The future, however, is a different animal.
Win against Group E leaders Maziya S&RC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday and BFC will book their AFC Cup inter-zonal playoff semifinals.
That’s all that matters for the Men in Blue now. As it stands, Maziya top the group with 12 points, three ahead of last season’s finalists. The champion side from Maldives have been by far the best team in the group, which also includes Mohun Bagan, this season with 10 goals scored and just three accepted in their five games.
A far cry from BFC who have a goal difference of zero and Bagan who have -1.
But what makes this tie, the last group stage fixture, interesting is the fact that AFC Cup takes head-to-head into consideration in case of a tie and the Marjan Sekulovski-coached side suffered their only loss in their Asian campaign to the Bengaluru side.
The Men of Steel come into the match on the back of their Federation Cup triumph following a transitional season under Albert Roca. While there will be no shortage of morale in the side, legs are a different matter.
Udanta ruled out
Udanta Singh is ruled out while Sunil Chhetri and a host of others are only half fit at best. Add to that the fact that India will be playing the Asian Cup qualifier in two weeks time, Chhetri, at best, might get a run off the bench.
The long and arduous season planning from the federation has only added to the players’ load. Meanwhile, the visitors just had their run of eight consecutive wins come to an end at the hands of Victory in the Dhivehi Premier League.
Mohamed Umair, who has scored in four of their five matches, will once again lead the line for Maziya while the calming presence of Pavel Matiash in goal alongside Milos Kovacevic and Andrei Cordos in defence has been a huge factor in the team’s strong show so far.
The creativity of Assadhulla Abdulla and Aleksandar Rakic’s guile in the flanks could prove to be a tough day at the office for John Johnson and Co. With a season defined by near misses and ‘oh so nearly’ moments, BFC will have to make their chances count come Wednesday if they want to continue their Asian sojourn....