It's do or die for Bengaluru

Trailing by a goal, BFC need to go on the attack against Istiklol

It's do or die for Bengaluru

Bengaluru FC will take on FC Istiklol in the second leg of the AFC Cup inter-zonal final, aware that they need a win by a no less than a two-goal margin to make it to a second successive AFC Cup final on Wednesday.

The tie is poised on a knife-edge after Bengaluru went down 0-1 in the first leg a few weeks ago. If they are to have any shot at revenge against the reigning champions Air Force Club of Iraq, who have booked their place in the final for the second year running, Albert Roca’s team will have to turn up in full force against the Tajikistan side that is known to hit on the counter.

Moreover, with both the teams finishing runners-up in the last two editions, they will be motivated by the prospect of playing the final in front of their home support this time around. “For sure it’s a big game and we can’t put a step wrong,” said Roca on the eve of the game.

“It’s difficult to get to the AFC Cup final. We need to have a balance tomorrow, more than we used to have in previous games. You know how difficult it is because it’s a semifinal. We cannot make errors. Everyone is concerned about staying focused. It’s a game of attitude and brain. You have to be at the same level throughout the 90 minutes, which is 100 per cent.”

While the first leg saw Bengaluru adapt a more pragmatic approach, sitting deep and defending in numbers, on Wednesday, they will have to lead the charge and try to break the Istiklol defence as early as possible. And with the side enjoying a healthy defensive record at home, it won’t be a surprise if Bengaluru set the tone for the game.

“I think it (the defensive record) speaks for itself,” said goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. “We have not conceded much and that’s a good thing. We will keep it that way. We will play the game according to the situation on the pitch. It might not be in the first minute that we score. But our aim is to win and that’s what we will try to do tomorrow.”

With the whole squad at his disposal, Roca is likely to go ahead with his tried and tested line-up with Harmanjot Khabra likely to return to the starting XI.

Istiklol, meanwhile, have been boosted by the return of Ghanaian midfielder David Mawutor and Tajik midfielder Juraboev Amirbek while Ukraine defender Artem Baranavskyi continues to serve a suspension.

A look at their first-leg meeting would reveal a thing or two about Istiklol and the manner in which they approach a tie. With striker Manuchekhr Dzhalilov the only man in the opposition box, the Tajik side would sit deep, let Bengaluru have the possession and try to hit them on the counter. It was one such move that led to the only goal in Dushanbe.

And with a goal advantage and 90 minutes separating them from a place in the final, you don’t expect them to do anything fancy.

DH News Service

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