Bengaluru FC on Sunday will resume their bid to qualify for the group stages of the 2021 AFC Cup with a playoff clash against Maldivian side Club Eagles at the National Stadium in Male. A win will take Marco Pezzaiuoli’s men into Group D of the continental competition, where ATK Mohun Bagan, Bashundhara Kings and Maziya S&RC await.
Bengaluru FC, who made it through the Preliminary Stage Two with a comprehensive 5-0 win against Tribhuvan Army FC, landed in the Maldives earlier this week and began preparations for the clash. Should the Blues see off the Eagles, they will face ATK Mohun Bagan in their opening clash of Group D on Wednesday, August 18.
“It’s not an easy situation to play in. This is the second time we are preparing for this game. We had a good four-week preparation at the Inspire Institute of Sport in Bellary, where we stayed in a bubble. It was a great facility with a fantastic ground, and now we are here in Maldives in another bubble,” said Pezzaiouli, speaking at the pre-match press conference.
The Blues have registered seven new signings in their AFC Cup squad, including defenders Alan Costa and Yrondu Musavu-King, while four more players from the club’s developmental squad have also made the cut.
“We are missing a few players for the game against Club Eagles. Prince Ibara has an infection and he hasn’t joined the team, Edmund Lalrindika has a back injury and Harmanpreet Singh has a muscle issue. I have 26 players available for selection and we want to make it to the next stage of this competition,” he added.
Club Eagles, in their maiden AFC Cup campaign, made their way to the playoff round of the competition owing to Abahani Dhaka’s withdrawal. Head Coach Mohaamed Shaazly’s side had progressed through the Preliminary Stage One with a 2-0 win over Thimphu City, courtesy goals from Hassan Ahmed and Mohammed Naim. In their recently concluded League season, Eagles finished fourth, with four wins, five defeats and five draws.
“We’re really thankful that we can finally play a match, and we are really looking forward to the game. We are just focusing on our team, and as players we are all eager to fight for a place in the first XI and give our coach a selection headache. After last season’s defeat to Maziya, we weren’t feeling well because we didn’t give our best. But this is a new campaign and we will strive to do our best,” said Blues’ skipper Sunil Chhetri.
Kick-off between the Blues and Club Eagles at the National Stadium in Male is at 8.30pm IST.