Bengaluru: The Sree Kanteerava Stadium will play host to its first game since the Indian Super League final when Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC side welcome New Radiant SC in a 2018 AFC Cup group stage clash, on Tuesday. Having won their six previous AFC Cup games on the trot, Roca stressed the need for his Blues to maintain consistency in a competition in which they have reached the semifinal stage for two consecutive seasons.
“New Radiant are a very good side and have some quality players in their ranks. We saw them play against Aizawl and in Dhaka and we’re sure that we will have to be at our best to take anything away from them,” said the Spaniard, speaking at the pre-match press conference.
Bengaluru claimed a 1-0 win at the Fortress in their opening match of the 2018 AFC Cup group stages with a win against Abahani Dhaka before a 3-1 away defeat of Aizawl in Guwahati earlier this month. Striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia scored in both games, and could be set to make a start on Tuesday.
“We have some players who are in form and others who have been waiting for their chance. I will have to rest a few key players because we have a Super Cup quarterfinal coming up but I am sure that those who take the field will give their best,” added the Spaniard.
The Blues sit atop the standings in Group E, with two wins from two games, having scored four goals and conceded just one. Bengaluru boast a perfect record against Maldivian sides, with six wins from as many games over three seasons of the continental competition. The only major doubt for the Blues is central defender Juanan Gonzalez, who is nursing an injury sustained in the closing stages of the Indian Super League.
New Radiant, AFC Cup semifinalists in 2005 and the only Maldivian club to have progressed beyond group stages in the AFC cup on multiple occasions, come into the game with numbers identical to those of Roca’s men, having won their opening game against Aizawl 3-1 in Henveiru, before a 1-0 win against Abahani Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Talismanic striker Ali Ashfaq is the man in form and Roca admits the Bengaluru back line will need to be sharper than usual. “We were all upset with the way we conceded against Aizawl but we showed enough character to come back. We cannot afford to make those mistakes against New Radiant who have quality in attack. The game is a chance for us to go ahead on points alone and it’s one we must work hard to make count.”