Tough task ahead for Bengaluru FC as they host group leaders Persipura Jayapura in AFC Cup
Bengaluru, May 11 Having already qualified for the round of 16, Bengaluru FC would be looking to finish on top in their group with a win over unbeaten Indonesian side Persipura Jayapura in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup here on Tuesday.
It is a task easier said than done, given the pedigree of Persipura, who were the semi-finalists in the tournament last year, and have won the Indonesia Super League (ISL) three times with an equal number of runners-up finishes since the ISL's inception in 2008-09.
Persipura, also known as the 'Black Pearls', are currently leading Group E with 13 points from four wins and a draw while the Blues have 12 points after five outings. Their only defeat came against the Indonesian team who won 3-1 at home in March.
When the two teams last met, Bengaluru FC were severely depleted as six of their regulars -- skipper Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Keegan Pereira, Siam Hanghal and Shankar Sampingiraj were away at the national team preparatory camp.
Thus, Persipura's 3-1 win was hardly a surprise, though this time around, the Blues, riding a string of victories, will be at full strength.
Bengaluru, since the defeat in March, have been undefeated in 11 games in all competitions. The run also includes impressive away wins to Warriors in Singapore and Maziya in Maldives in the AFC Cup.
However, the hosts face a stiff task of not only neutralising their two-goal deficit, but also win which will help them avoid South China of Hong Kong who are assured of the top spot in Group B.
Persipura, led by all-time leading scorer of the Indonesian league, Boaz Solossa (137 goals in 199 games) and coached by Brazilian Oswaldo Lessa, need only a draw to top the group toppers and thus earn the right to host their round of 16 match.
Coach Ashley Westwood said players know they are up against a tough opposition in Persipura and though playing at home with a complete squad to choose from would be a big plus, the boys will have to put in a hard shift to come away with three points.
"We've watched a few videos of them and they are a very good side. They've been in good form and with the league in Indonesia being suspended they will come into this game fresh from a little break.
"They are a good side who keep the ball on the ground so playing against them home or away would be a difficult game anyway. Also, we are the ones in need of the win if we are to top the group and are under no illusions that this will be a very tough game," said Westwood.
But despite the high stakes, Westwood said there will be no pressure on his team as they have already qualified for the round of 16.
"We are fortunate it isn't a League match and we've already qualified for the last 16, so we can go into the game fairly free and without putting ourselves under pressure. We can go and see how good we are which is what the AFC Cup has been about for us this year - testing ourselves," he said.
The Blues will be without midfielder Thoi Singh who misses the game with a suspension while Westwood said Rino Anto. Sean Rooney, who were substituted in the 1-1 draw with Lajong after picking up knocks, would be assessed on the morning of the game before a decision on their inclusion is taken.