AFC Cup: I-League Champs Gokulam Kerala Tackle ATK Mohun Bagan

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Contemporary from profitable the I-League title, a buoyant Gokulam Kerala crew is confronted with a brand new problem as they tackle star-studded native heavyweights ATK Mohun Bagan within the AFC Cup group D opener on the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday.

Final Saturday, the Malabarians turned the primary crew to defend the I-League, after they edged out native giants Mohammedan Sporting 2-1 within the decider.

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Three days later Vincenzo Alberto Annese’s facet will likely be up in opposition to a complete new problem within the continental showpiece the place they certified by advantage of profitable the final season’s league.

In all, Annese’s facet gained 13 matches, drew 4 and misplaced solely as soon as — within the penultimate spherical. They scored the best variety of targets — 44 — and conceded the least — 15 — in one more good I-League season.

Slovenian centre-forward Luka Majcen, who was signed within the January switch window when the league was suspended, has been their high goal-scorer with 13 targets to his kitty.

Other than Majcen, their key Indian duo of midfielders Emil Benny and Muhammed Uvais together with the Afghan recruit Sharif Mukhammad, would be the key to their assault.

A win will give them an early benefit in securing the one obtainable berth into the AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-finals.

Having stood out with most interceptions within the I-League, Cameroonian centre again Aminou Bouba (113) and Pawan Kumar (72) will spearhead their defence in opposition to a high quality assault in Roy Krishna, David Williams and Manvir Singh.

“I’ve respect for all opponents however belief me you may have respect for my crew additionally. They have to give all the things tomorrow,” stated Annese.

Having achieved unprecedented success within the I-League, the Italian gaffer is unfazed by the hole between the I-League and the top-tier ISL groups.

“With finances you don’t win soccer. It’s a battle between XI versus XI on the sector.

“Personally, I’m a bit emotional, the budgets are totally different in ISL groups, and us. However budgets don’t matter to gamers.

“I’m very concerned on this sport, dedication, respect in the direction of opponents are necessary however we won’t make it simple for ATK. Tomorrow, we’ll play for a win,” he stated, giving a warning to their Kolkata rivals.

The Mariners, who’ve certified by ending runners-up within the final ISL, have already navigated previous Sri Lanka’s Blue Star SC and Abahani Restricted Dhaka of Bangladesh to guide their group stage slot.

With all of the group matches slated at their dwelling venue of Salt Lake Stadium, the Mariners will likely be excessive on confidence, whereas there will even be stress to ship with just one berth obtainable from the group.

The crew will likely be additional bolstered by the return of their ahead and defensive mainstays, Roy Krishna and Sandesh Jhingan, who missed the playoff levels.

“He has been coaching with the crew for the final two weeks, he additionally performed within the pleasant sport (in opposition to India). He’s working on a regular basis in coaching classes. It’s good for the crew. I’m completely satisfied that everybody is prepared for the match,” coach Juan Ferrando stated.

Bashundhara up in opposition to Maziya

Within the second match of the day on the identical venue, Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh and Maldives’ Maziya Sports activities & Recreation will likely be aiming to hold their home kind into their AFC Cup conflict.

The Bangladeshi outfit’s skipper Topu Barman, who’s down with an damage, will likely be lacking the sport.

“He’s a key participant of our nationwide crew. He’s our captain. However regardless of having robust opponents, we’re assured that it shouldn’t have an effect on us too badly,” Bashundhara Kings coach Oscar Bruzon stated.

Maziya Sports activities are additionally well-placed within the Maldives Premier League, defeating Inexperienced Streets 4-0 final week to steer by 5 factors, and head coach Miodrag Jesic stated his crew will play with none stress.

“We come right here with out an excessive amount of stress, we wish to present our high quality on the sector. We expect now we have an opportunity within the group stage, and there isn’t any stress on the gamers,” stated Jesic.

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