Singapore’s Tampines Rovers coach V. Sundramoorthy is confident his side can advance to the quarterfinals of the 2016 AFC Cup despite having lost to tonight’s Round of 16 opponents Mohun Bagan already this season.
The teams met in the qualifying rounds of the AFC Champions League in January 2016, with the Indian side running out 3-1 winners, but Sundramoorthy believes his team have improved since.
“Mohun Bagan are a very good team,” said the Tampines coach. “When we came here in January it was our first competitive game. We were in pre-season mood then and now it’s different because it’s midway through our season. We have many games under our belt and mentally and physically we are ready.”
Tampines have added former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant to their squad and the Englishman will start while Billy Mehmet misses the game through suspension.
Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, will be without Japanese midfielder Yusa Katsumi, who scored in the win over Tampines earlier in the year, and Haitian midfielder Sony Norde. Both are suspended.
“Katsumi and Sony are two key players for Mohun Bagan,” said Sundramoorthy. “We do have the momentum but we too have our suspensions and injuries. So it’s a level playing field. It balances it out.”
Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen brushed off concerns over the absence of Sony and Katsumi, with the Indian side also likely to be without Pritam Kotal and Pronay Halder.
“This is not the first time that we are missing some players,” he said. “So it will not be a problem for us, in fact it will be a challenge for the players who replace them.”
“The last time we played Tampines, it was different. There are a lot of changes so it will be a different ball game. They have strengthened the team so it will be tough for us.”
Mohun Bagan go into the game off the back of a 5-0 win over Aizawl FC in the final of India’s Federation Cup on Saturday and captain Jeje Lalpekhlua, who was also on the scoresheet when the teams met in January, is hoping he can help steer his team to the last eight of the competition.
“My target tomorrow is to win,” he said. “We have one more step to go after winning the Fed Cup. One more step to go. Of course if I get the opportunity I would like to score but it’s more important the team wins.”
by AFC Media