Stadium: Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
Kick-off: Tuesday, March 12, 15:00 IST
No Home Advantage
After going down 3-0 against Kitchee SC in Hong Kong, Churchill Brothers will resume their AFC Cup campaign with a home fixture against Indonesian Premier League holders Semen Padang, but the Goan club will effectively not have any home advantage as the match will be played in Pune. Due to ground availability problems in Margao, Churchill will have to play all their home matches at Pune’s Balewadi Sports Complex, something which local rivals Dempo also did two years ago. So Churchill won’t have too much backing from the stands but still would be hoping that the afternoon kickoff and high temperature of Pune will affect the performance of their opponents. Unlike the clash against Kitchee, Churchill have their Brazilian playmaker Beto available for this game while technical director Subhas Bhowmick, who didn’t make the trip to Hong Kong, will also be in the dugout.
Worryingly for Churchill, two of their foreigners are unavailable for selection as Afghanistan striker Balal Arezou is yet to get his visa while Gabon striker Henry Antchouet has had to return to Portugal for some paperwork. Hence, once again the goal scoring responsibility will be on India captain Sunil Chhetri who must still be disappointed at not having automatically qualified for the 2014 Challenge Cup. This will be Churchill’s first game in two weeks so some of their players have had some adequate rest but it remains to be seen how Beto and Sunil combine, while Senegal defender Lamine Tamba probably needed another game to get accustomed to the way Churchill defends. Winning the I-League remains Churchill’s priority but three points in this game would certainly keep them interested for the AFC Cup knockout stages.
Semen Padang made a winning start to their AFC Cup campaign last week by beating Singapore’s Warriors FC 3-1 at home. The Indonesian champions will be aiming for three points against Churchill to take a big step towards the round of 16, but they will be without all four of their foreigners either due to visa issues or injury. Argentinian midfielder Esteban Gabriel Vizcarra and Liberian striker Edward Junior Wilson will be the two major absentees as they are two of their biggest goal threats, with the latter having scored twice in three league games and also netted against Warriors FC on matchday one. Local strikers like Titus Bonai and Muhammad Nur Iskandar, who also scored against Warriors, will have to take more responsibility and be clinical for the Indonesian outfit.
Padang are currently top of the domestic league, which only started last month, having won each of their first three games. While Churchill have had a couple of weeks off, Padang too haven’t been in action for a week so they have had plenty of time to prepare and will surely have a good idea about the strengths and weaknesses of the I-League team. But the Indonesian club will still be wary of the weather conditions in Pune and thus will be looking for an early goal so that they are not stretched in the latter stages of the game. While the absence of the foreigners will be a massive setback, it also gives an opportunity for some of their fringe players to step up and stake a claim for a first team place. Padang also have four current Indonesia internationals in their team and thus should still fancy themselves to register an away win and take control of Group E.
Churchill Brothers: DLDWL
Churchill’s recent form has been very poor with the only win in the last five matches coming in the Goa Pro League against a second-string Dempo side. The Goan club will hoping for a positive result in this game to regain some confidence ahead of the I-League title run-in.
Semen Padang: LWWWW
Padang have had a 100 percent record so far this season as they have won four out of four in all competitions with the only defeat in the last five matches coming in the Indonesian Cup final last year against Persibo Bojonegoro. Form is certainly on their side.
Churchill Brothers: Beto
The Brazilian is fully fit once again and will be determined to get Churchill back to winning ways. Beto played with Sunil at Dempo four years ago and will be looking to revive that partnership in style in this game.
Semen Padang: Elie Aiboy
The former Indonesia skipper and current Semen Padang captain maybe 33 now but remains a livewire on the right wing. Aiboy had a very good outing against Warriors on matchday one and will be aiming to have a similar impact against Churchill.