It’s a must-win situation for Bangladesh champions Bashundhara Kings to confirm their spot in the Inter-Zone semifinal as they take on India’s ATK Mohun Bagan in their last Group D match of the AFC Cup 2021 at National Stadium in Male, Maldives on Tuesday.
The match is scheduled at 05:00pm BST and will be telecast live on T Sports.
Kings are currently placed second in the four-team group with four points after they won the first game against Maziya Sports and Recreation Club of Maldives by 2-0 that was followed by a goalless draw against India’s Bengaluru FC in their second match.
Mohun Bagan are leading the group with six points after securing successive wins over Bengaluru FC and Maziya respectively in their opening two matches and a point against Kings today will be enough for them to advance to the next round of the AFC Cup.
However, Kings will need nothing but a victory in the match to become only the second Bangladeshi side to earn a knockout place in the AFC Cup after Dhaka Abahani Limited achieved the feat in 2019.
“I think (the match-up) is very balanced,” Kings head coach Oscar Bruzon said on Monday. “Both teams are the only clubs to have the opportunity to qualify for the next round.
“Tomorrow (today) is going to be another long 90 minutes. If we are smart and wait for our opportunities, I’m sure we can bag the three points.
“Our confidence is that we only lost one match this season and I don’t think tomorrow will be the second. With that, you can see how strong we feel mentally,” he added.
Bruzon also confirmed that his team will play attacking football against Mohun Bagan in the match, which was lacking against Bengaluru FC in the second match.
“In the game with Bengaluru, we were the team that needed to hold the result but the condition has changed. ATK are starting with a slight advantage and we need to push a little bit more tomorrow (today if we want to win the game,” said Bruzon.
“I praise this club, they understand their game model and have the players to implement it. I know Antonio Lopez well, he was my colleague in Spain, and he knows me too. So let’s see what happens tomorrow.
“Two good teams are going to have a chance to qualify and it’s a pity only one club can move forward, and we want to be that club,” he added.
Ahead of the match, Kings’ players worked hard on the set pieces, especially on corner kicks during their last practice session held at Henveiru Football Ground in Male on Monday.
They also worked on their defence, which has been extraordinary during the tournament so far as they are yet to concede any goal in the competition.
“Coach already mentioned that Mohun Bagan are also strong in set-pieces. So we have to be careful nearer to the box and we have to avoid fouls there,” Kings captain Tapu Barman said.
Meanwhile, Mohun Bagan will be without their key French midfielder Hugo Boumous, who will miss the crucial match for conceding two yellow cards in the last two matches.
However, ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Antonio Lopez said that he has the same confidence in every player of the squad and was hopeful that his charges will continue their winning run against Kings.
“In football, I don’t like to bet with one goal and play the match. We have very good professional players. They are very disciplined and tactical,” said Lopez.
“Also, the Bangladesh teams are very competitive. They (Kings) are the champions of Bangladesh. We have to win with the players we have.
“The most important thing for us is not to concede a goal but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any attacks. We have to find the balance. We know that this is a decisive match and we have to give 100 percent on the pitch,” he added.