Venue: Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, Margao
Kickoff: Tuesday, March 18 2014, 17:30 IST
Back in form
Churchill Brothers bounced back from successive defeats with a convincing 3-0 win over Maldives’ New Radiant last week and still have a good chance of reaching the knockouts despite prioritising the I-League. No one can blame them for giving more importance to the domestic league because they currently occupy the one relegation spot and have only seven more games to avoid the ultimate embarrassment. But winning matches can only be a good habit for any side so the best way to prepare for the home clash against title-chasers Pune at the weekend would be to secure back-to-back home wins in the AFC Cup.
The Red Machines benefitted from the fact that New Radiant were without any foreigners but still had to produce a strong performance and that they did. The only regret was that they could have easily won by more but for some poor finishing. Mariano Dias would be hoping for a similar dominant display against Home United and they have had a full week to prepare for this encounter. The Goan outfit now have the chance to place themselves in a very good position in the group with three matchdays remaining. I-League survival is far from guaranteed but a strong run in the AFC Cup will give the Churchill squad confidence to achieve their domestic target.
Home United’s return to the AFC Cup for the first time since 2012 has been disappointing as after two rounds of matches they are yet to register a win. The Singapore Cup holders lost away to New Radiant on matchday one before holding Perispura Jayapura to a draw at home last week. They have failed to go past the group stage only once in their previous six AFC Cup appearances but anything less than a win in this fixture will make it very difficult for them to avoid an early exit this time. As a result the Protectors are under pressure to beat the Indian champions.
The AFC Cup 2004 semi-finalists have made a poor start to their S-League campaign with just win after three games. The other two have ended in defeats including the 3-0 loss against DPMM FC last Friday. More than the defeat, fatigue will be the main worry for coach Lee Lim-Saeng as they have had to do a lot of travelling. Unlike Churchill Brothers, the two-time S-League champions also haven’t had much competitive action as the domestic season in Singapore only started in February. Home United will still take heart from Churchill’s problems in the I-League and aim to get their first three points of this campaign.
Churchill Brothers: DDLLW
The victory against New Radiant last week ended a sequence of four games without a win. Churchill Brothers are yet to lose an AFC Cup fixture in Goa with two wins and a draw. They also have happy memories of beating Singapore’s Warriors FC 3-0 in Pune last year.
Home United: LLWDL
The S-League outfit have only won one of their five competitive matches this season and are looking to end a four-game winless streak in the AFC Cup going back to the 2012 edition. Home United have played once in Goa previously back in the first leg of the 2008 quarter-final where they held Dempo 1-1.
The I-League and Federation Cup holders will be without their skipper and midfield general Lenny Rodrigues, who is ruled out after getting booked in the first two games. Either Asley Fernandes or Mickey Fernandes will replace Lenny. Top scorer Balwant Singh is also doubtful so Costa Rican Cristian Lagos is set to start upfront again alongside Trinidad and Tobago’s Anthony Wolfe. The versatile Saran Singh is also available again after recovering from injury.
Possible XI: Arindam Bhattacharya; Denzil Franco, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Sanjay Balmuchu, Raju Yumnam; Anthony Pereira, Asley Fernandes/Micky Fernandes, Abedlhamid Shabana, Jaison Vales; Anthony Wolfe, Cristian Lagos
The Singapore side have only travelled with 15 players to Goa with coach Lee Lim-Saeng claiming that they are missing eight players due to injury. Brazilian-Japanese forward Bruno Castanheira has made the trip but is carrying an ankle injury and thus is unlikely to start. In another blow, midfielder Yasir Hanapi, who scored against Persipura Jayapura on matchday two, is unavailable due to double booking.
Possible XI: Shahril Jantan; Precious Emuejeraye, Ismail Yunos, Sirina Camara, Juma’at Jantan; Izzdin Shafiq, Fazli Ayob, Syahiran Miswan, Lee Kwan-Woo; Qiu Li, Ahmed Fahmie
Churchill Brothers – Cristian Lagos
The Costa Rican is yet to open his account in the I-League but scored his first goals for the club in a match-winning brace against New Radiant. Lagos would be looking forward to face a Home United side that hasn’t kept a clean sheet this season.
Home United – Lee Kwan-Woo
The 36-year-old former South Korean international lived up to his marquee status by winning the S-League player of the year award last season. Kwan-Woo is Home United’s most creative player and must be at his best if the Singapore club want to win this match.