Finalists in the AFC Cup in 2016, Bengaluru FC begin their continental quest this season with a tough test away at Al-Wehdat SC in Jordan in an AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage Two fixture to be played at the King Abdullah International Stadium, on Tuesday.
The Blues’ Spanish coach Albert Roca said his side will have to come up with something special on the night if they are to become the first Indian club to make the Preliminary stage one of the competition. “The AFC Champions League is the highest level of competition in the continent, so I don’t think I need to spell out how tough a test this will be. We are coming up against a team that is far more experienced than us but we have to be ready for every sort of challenge if we want to consistently compete in Asia,” said Roca.
The last time Bengaluru competed for a spot in the Champions League group stages was in February 2015 when they took Johor Darul Ta’zim to extra-time in the single-leg tie before going down 2-1.
In Al-Wehdat, Bengaluru have opponents who have won the Jordan League for the last three seasons and 15 times in all apart from 10 Jordan FA Cup titles, 12 Jordan Super Cup titles and 8 Jordan FA Shield titles. In Asia, their best finish was a place in the semi-final of the AFC Cup in 2011.
Though, Bengaluru come into the game having suffered consecutive defeats in the League back home, Roca refused to cite the blip as a reason for worry before what will be his team’s biggest game till date this season. “No one in the team sees it like that. The boys know they cannot afford to make the mistakes that have cost us in the League, against a side like Wehdat and on a stage like this. While I cannot predict Tuesday’s outcome, I know that the team will turn up with the kind of attitude I want to see,” he said.
The Jordanian side, meanwhile, are riding on the back of four straight wins and sit second on the Jordan League table at the half-way stage.
“They are the favourites and we are going to have to be very organized if we want to cause them any trouble. There’s also much talk about the cold weather conditions but we refuse to make much of it,” said Roca.
The Blues arrived in Amman on Sunday morning from Goa but misplaced baggage meant the team couldn’t put in a session in the evening.
Roca’s regular rotation of the squad makes it difficult to predict the kind of starting-XI he will roll out on Tuesday. In attack, CK Vineeth, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Udanta Singh and Roby Norales have all made starts in different games, while the midfield and defence too has seen swapping of personnel.
Al Wahda of UAE awaits the winner of this tie and should Bengaluru fail to get a result against Wehdat, they will drop down the AFC Cup where they may be grouped alongside Maziya S&RC (Maldives), Abahani FC (Bangladesh) and the winner of the South Zone play-off between clubs from India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives.
The game kicks off at 21.30 pm IST.
(Bengaluru FC Press Release)