Bangladesh Premier League champion Abahani Limited are confident of bouncing back in the AFC Cup 2018 when the Sky Blues take on last-season's I-League winner Aizawl Football Club in their third Group E match Wednesday evening. The game kicks off at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, Assam, India at 7pm, Bangladesh standard time.
After both the sides lost their first two encounters against the same opponent, the game is crucial for the two teams in order to earn their first point in the event, as well as keep their hope alive of staying in contention for a berth in the knockout stage.
Abahani conceded narrow margin of defeat (1-0) in both their matches against the two group favourites - Bengaluru FC and New Radiant Sporting Club - while Aizawl were outplayed by 3-1 margins against the same opponent, despite taking the lead on both occasions, the most recent one being at home against Bengaluru last week.
Saiful Bari Titu, Abahani's head coach for the AFC Cup, sees the game as a big opportunity for his side to bounce back and for the players to boost their confidence level. Looking at the recent tight fixtures of Aizawl, the visitor are hoping to clinch their first win in the group stage.
"We have to face Aizawl in the next two group matches at home and away. The first game is very important for us to bounce back in the AFC Cup," said Titu before adding, "Although it's an away game and Aizawl are a good team competing at the highest level, I am convinced my boys with practical approach know it is possible to beat them and gather confidence."
Titu also said he mainly concentrated in the previous weeks on the fitness of the players. He informed that he had to strike a fine balance between the seven national players who joined the squad late and the existing ones. He said he has high hope on Nigerian attacking pair Sunday Chizoba, who missed the Bengaluru clash due to suspension, and Emeka Darlington. Midfielder Emon Mahmud is set to return to action after around four months of injury-forced absence and is likely to replace Sohel Rana in midfield.
Abahani played their last match on March 14 this year while Aizawl played two matches in a week, including Sunday's 1-0 defeat against East Bengal in the AIFF Super Cup. Aizawl head coach Santosh Kashyap, who joined the Mizoram outfit two days after Titu took over the responsibility of Abahani in February, said through the club's official twitter page, "Despite the hectic schedule, we will not have any excuses. We will give our best and fight to win for three points (Wednesday)."
Meanwhile, in Group E's other match on the same day, Indian giant Bengaluru host Maldives' champion New Radiant in a crucial tie. The result will go a long way in deciding the group winner.