India’s Bengaluru FC and Club Eagles of Maldives will clash at the National Stadium in Male on Sunday for the sole remaining ticket to the 2021 AFC Cup group stage.
The playoff, initially scheduled to be played in May, was postponed due to the COVID-19 with Sunday’s winners advancing to Group D of the 2021 AFC Cup.
Both teams have already seen action in the 2021 AFC Cup with Club Eagles advancing to the playoff by virtue of a 2-0 win over Bhutan’s Thimphu FC in the preliminary round while Indian Super League (ISL) side Bengaluru FC scored an emphatic 5-0 victory over Nepal’s Tribhuvan Army in April.
Club Eagles will go into the tie without Ahmed Rizwan with head coach Mohamed Shazly confirming that the striker is still recovering from an injury.
Club Eagles, however, won’t be lacking in experience with the squad powered by Ali Ashfaq, Akram Abdul Ghanee, Ali Fasir, Mohamed Arif, Ismail Easa, Ahmed Hassan and Mohamed Faisal.
The experienced players, said Rizwan, will aid Club Eagles’ challenge against a Bengaluru side the head coach rates highly.
Bengaluru FC will be led by the Sunil Chettri with head coach Marco Pezzoli also banking on new signings Rohit Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Bidyashagar Singh, Jayesh Rane, Danish Farooq, and Sarthak Golui to deliver in a do-or-die encounter.
Bengaluru have excelled in the AFC Cup, having finished runners-up in 2016 and making the Inter-Zonal final in 2017 and semifinals a year later.
The playoff winners will join India’s ATK Mohun Bagan, Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh and Maiziya Sports & Recreation of Maldives in Group D which kicks off in Male on Wednesday.
The winners will play ATK Mohun Bagan in their opening clash with Bashundhara Kings to face Maziya Sports & Recreation.
The Group D winners will advance to the Inter-Zone semifinals against either FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan or FC Ahal of Turkmenistan from the Central Zone.