Abahani have the same number of points (7) as group leaders and Indian Super League champions, Chennaiyin FC while Manang sit at the bottom of the table
Abahani will host Manang Marshyangdi Club in their fifth AFC Cup group round fixture in Dhaka today and the Bangladesh Premier League giants are taking the encounter as a must-win game in order to keep their hopes alive to reach the knockout stages for the first ever time. The game kicks off at the Bangabandhu National Stadium at 5.45pm.
The Sky Blues can take two things in consideration to boost their confidence ahead of the crucial tie – first, they won the hard-fought battle away in Nepal with 1-0 win and second, they enjoyed goal galore at the same ground in their latest premier league tie with a 5-2 win over Rahmatganj MFS on Sunday.
Abahani have the same number of points (7) as group leaders and Indian Super League champions, Chennaiyin FC while Manang sit at the bottom of the table with only two draws making the home side clear favourites. Chenniyin are scheduled to play away against I-League champions Minerva Punjab today.
Manang had a better game in the first leg but couldn’t avail their chances while Abahani salvaged all three points thanks to Afghan defender Masih Saighani’s header in the first half. Abahani’s Portuguese head coach Mario Lemos expects better approaches from his boys at home.
“I don’t think they (Manang) can play the same way they played before. We went little bit cautious in Nepal as it was our first game, we didn’t allow them to play. Now at home we can attack more, press more, we are gonna force them to make mistakes. Playing home is different environment,” said Mario at pre-match presser yesterday.
With two matches remaining in the group stages in the race with Chennaiyin to qualify for the knockout stage, Mario takes the game quite seriously. “We cannot lose, we cannot draw, and we must win the game. I think our biggest game in AFC Cup is tomorrow (Wednesday). We are taking the game very importantly. If we win the game, we will be in a very good position to qualify.”
The Nepalese champions are yet to win a game in four matches and taking inspiration from their performance in the first leg. Manang head coach Chhiring Lopsang said, “We played better at home in terms of ball possession, shots on and off target but we couldn’t utilize those moments. Abahani got only one chance and scored. We played better and that’s why I believe we can win tomorrow’s game.”
He added, “My team has to prepare very seriously for tomorrow’s game. We have to win and we came here to take three points. I’m little worried about the weather because it’s very hot. We are trying to manage it. We will do our best.”
Nigerian striker Sunday Chizoba scored a hat-trick on Sunday’s league win which Mario felt a good sign for the club but conceding two goals against Rahmatganj led him work with defence during Monday’s training session in the absence of its top national defender Topu Barman, who had been out of the season due to torn ligament. Brazilian defender Wellington Priori is also ruled out due to injury along with midfielder Atiqur Rahman Fahad. Manang has only one injury problem in the form of their Nigerian striker Afeez Olawale Oladipo.
Abahani trained at their home ground yesterday afternoon while Manang conducted their practice session at the BNS.