Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bengaluru FC set for big night in Asia

Bengaluru FC Media

Bengaluru FC will add a key chapter to their little but event-filled history when the Blues take on Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim in the AFC Champions League preliminary qualifier to be played at the Larkin Stadium, in Johor, Malaysia, on Wednesday.

Ashley Westwood’s League and Federation Cup champions take the field at 6.15 pm IST for what is arguably their biggest night yet and the gaffer has said his boys are keen on giving a good account of themselves on the Asian stage. The Blues had embarked on a pre-season tour to China earlier this season with an eye on the Asian challenges this campaign. The odds are heavily stacked against Bengaluru who also have 18,000 Johor fans spurring their side on, to deal with.

“On the day anything can happen. We'll go into the game and apply ourselves correctly which is our framework and see where it takes us. You can't be overconfident in football. We are hopeful. We are looking forward to our experience in Asian Football,” said Westwood at the pre-game press conference on Tuesday.

After a rather indifferent start to their title defence, Bengaluru’s last game was a big 0-4 win away from home to leaders Royal Wahingdoh and the result has done the Blues’ confidence a fair amount of good. But Westwood isn’t making too much of it with relation to the challenge in Johor.

“The morale in the camp is good. We've come here on the back of a 4-0 victory which stands us in good stead. But this is football and change is regular. We don't look at anything into the past and we're looking forward to a good match. Hopefully we can do ourselves some justice and look what we can bring to the table. They are a good side with some quality players. It will be a difficult as they are the champion side.”

Johor, on their part, began their own title defence of the Malaysia Super League with a 2-0 win over Pahang last week and while coach Bojan Hodak admitted that playing at home will work for them, he wasn't willing to write the tie off as a cakewalk. “Of course, we are playing at home and I have always said that if you are playing at home, no matter who you are up against, you are always favourites. But it's going to be a tough match. Bengaluru are a good, organised and physical team. We have seen a few of their videos. The good thing is that we beat Pahang FC and the spirit in the camp is good,” he said.

Hodak said Johor would be without Argentine striker Luciano Figueroa who picked up an injury and the coach wasn't willing to take a gamble on him. Westwood, meanwhile, has a completely fit squad to pick from. A win on Wednesday would see Bengaluru travel to play Bangkok Glass in their bid to move closer to the league stages of Asia's premier club competition.

Medio Joshua Walker trains at the Larkin Stadium