Bengaluru FC will eye the big chance to make the quarterfinal of the 2016 AFC Cup when they take on Kitchee SC in a vital one-off Round-of-16 fixture at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong on Wednesday evening.
The Blues put behind a slow start to string together wins and finish second behind Cup holders Johor Darul Ta’zim in Group H, earning them a spot in the knock-out stages of the competition for the second season running. And Technical Analyst Mathew Holland, who will be at the Bengaluru touchline as coach Ashley Westwood serves the third of his four-game suspension, hoped the team would rise to the occasion. “We’re up against a very tough team in Kitchee who have done well in the group stages. But so have we, getting wins in the middle. It’s a Round-of-16 game which is always going to be tricky but we are confident because we always prepare well. It’s going to be an exciting game,” said Holland while addressing the media on Tuesday.
Interestingly, the Blues are no strangers to the Mong Kok turf, having played South China AA at the same stage of the competition last season. The game ended 2-0 in favour of the Hong Kong side on a heavy surface but Blues midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh was confident of the team putting together a performance that would pull them across the line this time around.
“The mood in the dressing room is that of confidence. There’s a desire among the squad to go one better this season and we hope to be able to translate that desire on the pitch. When we played South China we had one eye on the I-League title decider against Mohun Bagan which we had to play three days later. This time around there’s no sharing of focus which is a good thing,” said Lyngdoh who was named midfielder of the I-League for a second season running.
Westwood has rolled out a unique playing XI in almost every game this season and it will be interesting to see how the gaffer approaches this one.
Kitchee finished top of Group F with four wins, one draw and a loss and conceded just once in the group stages and Bengaluru’s attack will have to be on top of their game if they are to take the game to the hosts. The Blues will however be without CK Vineeth who sits out with a sore shoulder while Kim Song Yong missed the trip owing to visa issues.
The game kicks off at 5.30pm IST and will be televised live on Star Sports 4.