Stadium: Shah Alam Stadium, Shah Alam, Malaysia
Kick-off: Tuesday, April 23, 18:15 IST
Back In Contention
After managing just one point in their first three matches, Selangor revived their hopes of reaching the round of 16 by beating Vietnam’s Sai Gon Xuan Thanh 3-1 at home on matchday four. That result now leaves them needing wins in their final two matches to progress to the next round, and thus this is a must-win encounter for Malaysia’s most successful club. The other Malaysian representative, Kelantan have already booked their place in the round of 16 but have struggled in the domestic league. Selangor on the other hand have made a good start to their league campaign as they are third and only four points off the top in the 12-team league. The 2006 AFC Cup quarter-finalists will be aiming to make the most of their home advantage and avenge the 1-0 loss suffered against East Bengal on matchday one in Kolkata, although they would hope for a better turnout as their first two home matches saw attendances of less than 2000.
Although Selangor’s season started in January, they won’t necessarily be fresher than the East Bengal squad for this game because this will be their fourth match in ten days, while the Indian club would be playing their first fixture in nine days. The biggest talking point of the reverse fixture in February was the news of Lebanese defender Ramez Dayoub’s involvement in a match-fixing scandal on the eve of the match. Dayoub has since been released by the Malaysian club, but his replacement, Australian Adam Griffiths, has not been registered for the AFC Cup. Crucially, Selangor will be without Slovakian defender Peter Chrappan, who will be serving a one-game ban after receiving yellows in two matches, and Liberian striker Francis Doe, who has scored four goals in the AFC Cup, due to injury. Slovakian attacking midfielder Michal Kubala is their only available foreigner, thus Selangor could consider themselves as slight underdogs for this contest. That could slightly take the pressure off Selangor, but they would be well aware that anything less than a win would confirm their elimination from the group stage.
East Bengal have certainly restored their reputation in the continent in this AFC Cup campaign, as going into their home match against Selangor FA they were aiming to end a 21-match winless streak. Now they are hoping to win three straight AFC Cup matches for the first time since their debut campaign in 2004. The red-and-gold brigade have been solid on their travels so far, as they drew goalless with Sai Gon Xuan Thanh and beat Tampines Rovers 4-2 in Singapore. After the hard-fought 2-1 success over Tampines on matchday four, they just need a point in this game to qualify for the knockouts for the first time since 2004, but a victory could see them win the group with a match to spare if Sai Gon Xuan Thanh fail to beat Tampines Rovers in the other game. This will be East Bengal’s 52nd match of the season, but they would be thankful to the AIFF for giving them another weekend off to prepare for this crucial AFC Cup encounter.
Churchill Brothers’ win over Mohun Bagan on Sunday all but ended East Bengal’s hopes of winning the I-League and that would certainly hurt the whole club, because they had plenty of chances to take control of the title race, but four straight draws proved to be fatal. The possibility of reaching the AFC Cup knockout stage will be a welcome distraction for Morgan and his players, and could eventually convince the sponsors to give the Englishman an improved contract and keep him at the club for a longer period. Central defender Arnab Mondal is still not fully fit and thus didn’t travel, but midfielder Ishfaq Ahmed is back from suspension, while goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu is also in the squad. East Bengal had two full training sessions in Malaysia and with Selangor missing two key foreigners, Morgan’s side will be confident of a good result and really disappointed if they don’t at least get the point that is needed to book their place in the round of 16.
Selangor FA: WWWLD
The only loss in the last five matches was the heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat to Darul Takzim in the Malaysia Cup quarter-final. The match went to penalties after Selangor had lost 2-1 at home in the second leg which made it 3-3 on aggregate, and it remains their only home defeat this season.
East Bengal: DDWWD
Interestingly, the two wins have come in the AFC Cup and both against Singapore’s Tampines Rovers. So East Bengal haven’t let the indifferent I-League form affect their AFC Cup performances, but their only previous visit to Malaysia ended in a 2-1 defeat against Negeri Sembilan FA in 2004.
Selangor FA: Mohd Amri Yahyah
With Francis Doe ruled out, Selangor will depend heavily on Malaysian international Amri, who has scored twice already in this AFC Cup campaign. The 32-year-old versatile attacker will be looking to use his experience and inspire Selangor to an important victory.
East Bengal: Edeh Chidi
The Nigerian has found the back of the net in each of East Bengal’s last five matches and will be determined to extend that run. With Selangor having no foreign defender available, Chidi will surely be able to cause plenty of problems to the Malaysian club’s defence.Published 22 Apr 2013, 21:24 IST