With their I-League supremacy confirmed, Bengaluru FC will shift all focus to what is a very crucial AFC Cup fixture when the Indian Champions host Lao Toyota FC from Laos, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday. The Blues, after four rounds and with six points, are second in Group H that has Cup holders Johor Darul Ta’zim in pole position (12 points). And a win against Lao could take Ashley Westwood’s side on the brink of the knock-out stages for a second successive season.
“We are looking forward to the game tomorrow. We are champions of the I-league and are looking to back up our good show by doing well tomorrow. We have players that are fresh and hungry and are looking forward to the game. It’s pretty vital that we get three points given our last game is against Johor who are the strongest team in the competition, never mind the group,” said Westwood who was named ‘Coach of the Year’ at the Football Player’s Association of India Awards, on Monday evening.
The Blues had a rather frustrating outing in Laos where they conceded early and then missed a flurry of chances in the last quarter of the game before going down 2-1. But Westwood’s side will be keen to make amends at home. “In the away leg, we made a very early mistake. We tried to play football soon after but went down 2-0 owing to a mistake again. When we did score, it was too little too late. We played fairly well but maybe didn’t deserve a win,” said Westwood.
The Englishman rested a big number of his regular starters for the inconsequential last game of the I-League against Mohun Bagan with an eye on the Lao fixture. Sunil Chhetri, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Kim Song Yong, John Johnson, Michael Collins and Udanta Singh had no part to play in the game at Siliguri while Rino Anto came on as a second half substitute. “We rested players for the game against Bagan with a reason. We want to win and will have to play our best team tomorrow.”
Lao’s only victory in the campaign came against Bengaluru after which they suffered a defeat to Ayeyawady United FC followed by defeats in both legs against Johor. But while Westwood said the Blues’ rivals were a ‘well balanced team with good foreigners and a bit of pace’, his team would be focusing on their business with an eye on getting the job done.