Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani are expected to face an uphill task when they take on high-flying Bengaluru FC in their second Group E encounter of the AFC Cup at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru tonight.
Abahani went to India on the back of a 1-0 home defeat against New Radiant SC of Maldives, and now they are up against a much stronger side, who have been playing in the Indian Super League (ISL) since last November. On Sunday, Bengaluru FC reached the final of the franchise league after beating FC Pune City 3-1.
Bengaluru had reached the AFC Cup qualifying round by beating Bhutan's Transports United (3-0 on aggregate) before dispatching TC Sports Club of Maldives (8-2 on aggregate) in the play-off qualifiers.
However, they fielded second-string sides in their qualifying fixtures and may rest some of their best players against Abahani ahead of Saturday's ISL final.
Abahani, meanwhile, were due to have their final practice session at the match venue last night following the arrival of Nigerian duo Emeka Darlington and Alison Udoka.
The players were apparently in a state of shock due to the US-Bangla Airlines plane crash in Kathmandu on Monday as the Abahani players also used the same airline to fly to Kolkata on the same day.
“The players are in shock following the plane crash in Nepal as we had a chat with a few passengers of that flight during our departure. However, the players are focusing on tomorrow's match,” coach Saiful Bari Titu said over phone yesterday.
“Bengaluru will be a very difficult side but we will try to improve our performance. We don't want to give space and allow the opposition to come in like we did against New Radiant,” Titu said. “Abahani beat Bengaluru in Dhaka during the last edition, so if we can give our best and make less number of mistakes, it is possible to secure points against them.”