Preview: Bengaluru FC in a must-win situation against Bashundhara Kings to keep AFC Cup inter-zone semi-final hopes alive

Bengaluru FC face a tough task when they take on 2021 Bangladesh Premier League champions Bashundhara Kings in their second match of the AFC Cup Group D South Zone at the National Football Stadium in Male (Maldives) on Saturday.

The Blues suffered a 2-0 defeat in their first match against fellow Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) side ATK Mohun Bagan on Wednesday and they will now be under pressure to win against the Kings and stay in the hunt for the next round. The Bangladeshi club also beat Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation 2-0 on Wednesday.

The Blues looked off-colour against the Mariners and barring a couple of moments they were no match for Antonio Lopez Habas’ men. Things particularly looked out of order in defence and up front. They gave away two easy goals to Roy Krishna and Subhasish Bose.

Yrondu Musavu-King, Sarthak Golui and Alan Costa need to pick themselves up at the back after ordinary outings against ATK Mohun Bagan, and prior to that against Maldives’ Club Eagles in their play-off tie. Sunil Chhetri didn’t have a good game on Wednesday and his being out of form did affect the team’s performance in a big way. Brazilian forward Cleiton Silva had a better game than the Bengaluru FC skipper but if truth be told, he could have done better.

Bashundhara Kings are a solid team and their head coach Oscar Bruzon knows a thing or two about Hero ISL teams. Bruzon has coached in India in the past – he worked as assistant coach for Mumbai City FC and as head coach for Sporting Clube de Goa. The Bangladeshi club has some dangerous names in their ranks like forward Raul Beccera and winger Robinho who found himself on the scoreboard against Maziya Sports & Recreation. 

The winner of the group will qualify for the inter-zone semi-final and Bengaluru FC will have to win this game to stay in the hunt. A defeat will shut the door for them -- for good. That’s something head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli wouldn’t want to experience so early in his tenure at Bengaluru FC.

However, it may be noted that even a win against Bashundhara Kings won’t help their cause if ATK Mohun Bagan beat Maziya Sports & Recreation in the second game of the day. With the win against the Maldivian club, the Mariners will reach six points in two games and having beaten the Blues their first match, they are sure to finish above Pezzaiuoli’s men in the group, meaning exit for the 2016 AFC Cup finalists. So not only will the Blues have to win against Bashundhara Kings but they will also have to pray that the Mariners don’t win against Maziya Sports & Recreation in the second game on Saturday.      

“There is no pressure. Football is not about pressure, it's about enjoying. We enjoy the games, and there is no pressure for us. I think every team wants to be the number one in the Group. We want to win, and so does Bashundhara Kings,” Pezzaiuoli said ahead of the game.

“I take the positives from the previous game; we had almost 70% ball possession and I think we need to improve in some aspects. We need to work better on our free-kicks and corners. We need to create better chances and finish them too.

“We don't want to give the opponent a chance to counter. The Bangladeshi team are better in transition, which was our good side. We want to create chances and score goals, and we have 90 minutes to try and do that.”

Bengaluru FC squad: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Sharon Padattil, Lara Sharma, Pratik Chaudhari, Wungngayam Muirang, Ajith Kumar, Ashique Kuruniyan, Parag Srivas, Yrondu Musavu-King, Alan Costa, Sarthak Golui, Biswa Darjee, Suresh Wangjam, Jayesh Rane, Danish Farooq, Rohit Kumar, Muhammad Inayath, Namgyal Bhutia, Ajay Chhetri, Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Cleiton Silva, Roshan Singh Naorem, Siva Sakthi, Akashdeep Singh, Bidyashagar Singh, Leon Augustine, Harmanpreet Singh

Kick-off time: 4:30 pm (IST)

Live telecast: Star Sports Network

Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar VIP and JioTV

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