ATK Mohun Bagan will face FC Bengaluru in their first group game in the AFC Cup. Mohun Bagan has been unbeaten against Bengaluru since the 2019 Indian Super League season.
Marco Pezzaiuoli, the manager of FC Bengaluru, has claimed that their domestic rivals are favourites in this match. The Italian, in the pre-match press conference, has said that, as their last game was two days back and it may not give them much advantage and it will be a short recovery for the team but he chooses to look at the glass half full. Pezzaiuoli believed that there was great spirit shown in that match and they need to be sharp against Mohun Bagan, as they will play an aggressive game.
Bengaluru FC defeated the Maldivian team, Club Eagles 1-0, with Jayesh Rane scoring the solitary goal, to qualify for the AFC Cup. They have been placed in Group D, along with Mohun Bagan, Basundhara Kings and Maziya S&RC. Out of these, only one team will qualify for the inter-zonal playoff semifinals.
ATK Mohun Bagan qualified through erstwhile Mohun Bagan’s I- League win in 2019-20. They have recruited many players since their loss to Mumbai City in the 2020-21 ISL final which includes French midfielder, Hugo Boumous, Liston Colaco, Bidyananda Singh, Amrinder Singh, Ashutosh Mehta and Deepak Tangri.
Pezzaiuoli said, “ATK Mohun Bagan like to play a lot of long passes, go for the second ball and press high up on the pitch, which calls for a different approach from us. But they have also changed things in the summer, by bringing in a French foreigner (Hugo Boumous), among other players.” He believes the team could win if they show good focus and spirit.
Antonio Lopez Habas, Mohun Bagan coach, also believes that even with the lack of foreign players due to COVID-19 restrictions, they are still looking forward to doing well in this competition.
He also believed that a long rest may not be necessarily advantageous for the Kolkata-based team. He sees desire as the key to winning the match. Gurpreet Singh, goalkeeper- captain of Bengaluru FC, has stated that focus will be key as it will be a difficult match with ATK Mohun Bagan.