ATK Mohun Bagan vs Bengaluru FC: Players to watch out for
ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC lock horns in their AFC Cup Group D South Zone match at the National Football Stadium in Male (Maldives) on Wednesday. The last time these two teams played against each other was earlier this year on February 09 in the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). The Mariners registered a 2-0 win and with that did the double over the Blues. While this is the first time both teams line up against each other in the AFC Cup, the familiarity between the teams can’t be denied since both ply their trade in the Hero ISL. As the build-up to the much-anticipated match has reached fever-pitch, here let’s take a look at some of the players from either camp who could make a difference on Wednesday.
Roy Krishna: Arguably the most reliable name from the ATK Mohun Bagan camp. Last season, he scored 14 goals and provided eight assists and it was a shame that the Mariners neither could claim the League Shield nor the prestigious trophy. By all means, the AFC Cup is a big opportunity for him to lessen the disappointment he and his team experienced last season. He is an out-and-out goal-machine and Bengaluru FC’s new defenders Yrondu Musavu-King and Alan Costa will have to be at the top of their game to rein him in.
David Williams: The Aussie striker joined the camp in Kolkata a bit late – a couple of days before their departure for the Maldives -- but if reports are to be believed, he has looked good in training so far. He was Hero of the Month in March earlier this year after scoring in both legs of the semi-finals as well as the final. It will be interesting to see how a new-look Bengaluru FC defence copes with his pace and accuracy. His partnership with Krishna up front could be decisive.
Hugo Boumous: It came as a big surprise to many when ATK Mohun Bagan announced the signing of French playmaker Hugo Boumous in July. It was nothing short of a coup if truth be told. After all, he was one of the most decorated players in the Hero ISL and a winner with Mumbai City FC last season. Boumous’ presence in ATK Mohun Bagan’s midfield means Krishna as well as Williams can expect a top-class service. The Blues will do well to remember that he is also a potent goal-scoring threat having scored 19 goals in the Hero ISL so far.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu: The tall goalkeeper is in the form of his life. The other day against Club Eagles once again he helped his team to a clean sheet. In the 44th minute, the Eagles could have equalised if not for Gurpreet’s alertness in goal. A corner had come off defender Sarthak Golui’s foot and required quick reflexes from Gurpreet to keep their lead intact. The custodian also had great outings in India colours in June earlier this year in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha.
Suresh Wangjam: Like Gurpreet, Wangjam has had a fabulous year in India colours. After making his India debut against Oman in March, the midfielder went from strength to strength and featured in India’s remaining three matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha. It was no surprise when the AIFF declared him Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Season 2020-21. Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri believes Wangjam is a bit of a special talent for his age and the 20-year-old will look to live up to those expectations. Expect him to make a difference on Wednesday.
Cleiton Silva: Cleiton Silva had a good 2020-21 Hero ISL season and was one of the few shining lights for Bengaluru FC. He scored seven goals and provided four assists but since the team was struggling his performances never got the recognition they deserved. However, now is the time to start afresh. He was not at his best against Club Eagles on Sunday but he could be excused considering it was his first competitive match in four months. Now that the tournament proper begins, expect Silva to up the ante. Silva had also scored a brace against Nepal’s Tribhuvan Army FC in April earlier this year in what was an AFC Cup Round 2 preliminary clash.