Updated: August 14, 2021 4:45:17 pm
Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru FC will hope to begin their season on a positive note when they face Club Eagles of Maldives in a play-off match of the AFC Cup on Sunday.
The winners of the playoff, initially scheduled to be played in May but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will advance to Group D of the 2021 AFC Cup.
Bengaluru had scored an emphatic 5-0 victory over Nepal’s Tribhuvan Army in the preliminary round in April while Club Eagles had beaten Bhutan’s Thimphu FC 2-0.
Besides mercurial Chhetri leading the charge, Bengaluru head coach Marco Pezzoli can also rely on new signings Rohit Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Bidyashagar Singh, Jayesh Rane, Danish Farooq, and Sarthak Golui.
Bengaluru, which finished at a lowly seventh in the Indian Super League, have thrived in the AFC Cup, having finished runners-up in 2016 and making the Inter-Zonal final in 2017 and the semi-finals a year later.
Club Eagles will go into the tie without Ahmed Rizwan with head coach Mohamed Shazly confirming to local media that the striker is still recovering from an injury.
The home side, however, won’t be lacking in experience with the likes of Ali Ashfaq, Akram Abdul Ghanee, Ali Fasir, Mohamed Arif, Ismail Easa, Ahmed Hassan and Mohamed Faisal available for the match.
The playoff winners will join another Indian side ATK Mohun Bagan, Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh and Maiziya Sports & Recreation of Maldives in Group D which kicks off in Male on Wednesday.
The winners will play ATK Mohun Bagan in their opening clash with Bashundhara Kings to face Maziya Sports & Recreation.
The Group D winners will advance to the Inter-Zone semi-finals against either FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan or FC Ahal of Turkmenistan from the Central Zone.