Bangladesh Premier League champion Dhaka Abahani Limited will take on Indian giant Bengaluru Football Club in their second Group E match of the AFC Cup 2018 away at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore Wednesday at 8:30pm, Bangladesh standard time.
Abahani, who conceded a narrow 1-0 defeat against Maldives champion New Radiant Sporting Club at home last week, will be looking forward to stopping a flying home side, who outplayed Pune City Football Club 3-1 Sunday to seal a final place in their debut Indian Super League season.
The Sky Blues will be without the service of their key Nigerian striker Sunday Chizoba, who received a red card in the opening match, while trusted midfielder Emon Mahmud Babu continues to be sidelined due to injury. Other Nigerian striker Emeka Darlington is likely to lead the forward line with Japanese midfielder Seiya Kojima and Sohel Rana in midfield.
As Bengaluru are scheduled to play the ISL final next week, the host are expected to give rest to some of their regular players but as Abahani head coach Saiful Bari Titu said before leaving the country for India Sunday, even the reserve team of Bengaluru would be difficult opposition, considering the depth of the squad, as well as their past record in the AFC Cup.
The traditional Dhaka powerhouse however, can take inspiration from their dramatic win over the same side in the group stage of last season's AFC Cup where they won the game 2-0 at home, despite playing with 10 men. It was Abahani's first win after losing their previous three group encounters, and Bengaluru went on to reach the semi-final afterwards.
The two young scorers from that game in May last year, Saad Uddin and Rubel Mia have become the regular faces of the team since then. Saad started as a right-back in last-week's first group match and put up a solid display, including a crucial clearance near the goal-line. Rubel received words of praise from the New Radiant coach for his brave display.
Abahani’s defence, guided by Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, Waly Faisal and Alison Udoka will have to be more cautious against Bengaluru's attacking line-up, led by India's legendary striker Sunil Chhetri, who, at the age of 33, netted a sensational hat-trick in the ISL semi-final three days ago.