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AFC Cup: Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC ready to take FC Istiklol test

Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC are eyeing a second straight AFC Cup final but he knows beating FC Istiklol at home will not be an easy task

football Updated: Sep 27, 2017 11:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
AFC Cup,Bengaluru FC,FC Istiklol
Bengaluru FC players train for the AFC Cup match vs FC Istiklol at the Hisor Central Stadium, in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, on Tuesday.(Bengaluru FC)

Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC are a step away from a second consecutive AFC Cup final. Bengaluru FC take on FC Istiklol in the first leg of the zonal final at the Hisor Central Stadium, in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, on Wednesday.

Bengaluru FC set up the clash with the runners-up of the 2015 edition of the tournament after staving off a fight form North Korean side 4.25 SC to emerge 3-0 winners on aggregate.

“We know how close we are to a shot at the final but we’ve kept that out of our thoughts for the moment. Over the next two games, it’s only Istiklol that we are concerned about,” said Roca.

FC Istiklol will have form going their way and Roca is aware of that.

“It’s going to be tough to get a good result against a team that has played a final before, but we are motivated to give our best. They are more matured than us, given they have just finished the league as champions.” he said.

High-flying Tajiks

FC Istiklol come into the game on the back of an undefeated AFC Cup campaign so far with six wins and two draws. Moreover, their unbeaten streak isn’t just limited to the continental stage, as they are also unbeaten in 24 competitive games in the 2017 season so far.

Thirteen of their 19 wins during this period have come in the Tajik League where they clinched the 2017 title in 16 games with five rounds to play.

In what will be more than just a slight advantage for Bengaluru FC, FC Istiklol will be without as many as three starters in midfielders David Mawutor (Ghana), Amirbek Juraboev and Ukrainian defender Artem Baranovskyi, all of whom miss the game with suspensions.

However Roca said his side wouldn’t be making much of it given the depth in quality the hosts possesses.

“They have players who can change the direction of a game in minutes and the key for us would be stay focused through the 90 minutes without taking the tie for granted.”

Bengaluru FC’s Sunil Chettri and 4.25 SC North Korea players in action during the AFC Cup Inter Zone semifinal match at Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. Bengaluru FC won the match 3-0. ( PTI )

Spaniard Roca has a complete squad to choose from and while he rolled out an unchanged starting eleven over two legs against 4.25 SC, Roca could mull a few changes against the Tajik side.

The Bengaluru defence who did well to keep two clean sheets against 4.25 SC will have their task cut out against a free-scoring Istiklol side who made it to the zonal final after a 5-1 aggregate result over Philippines side Ceres Negros.

The game kicks off under floodlights at 7.00 PM local time in Dushanbe (7.30 PM IST) and will be streamed live on Asian Football Confederation’s Media Channels (Facebook and YouTube).

First Published: Sep 27, 2017 11:27 IST