Kolkata, May 16 (IANS) It will be a dress rehearsal for Mohun Bagan ahead of the Federation Cup final while Bengaluru FC will look to push for the knockout berth when the two sides lock horns in a Group E AFC Cup encounter at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium here on Wednesday.
The two sides will meet again on Sunday in the Federation Cup final where Mohun Bagan will aim to defend their crown and bag their first silverware of the season.
Bengaluru, who reached the final of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup last season, beat surprise I-League champions Aizawl FC to reach the summit clash of the Federation Cup.
Though they have lost skipper and talisman Sunil Chhetri to injury, Bengaluru will also want to upset Mohun Bagan’s applecart and win their second Federation Cup title.
Mohun Bagan are high on confidence after their 2-0 victory over arch-rivals East Bengal in the semi-final.
The green and maroon brigade topped Group B with seven points from three matches and an unbeaten record while Bengaluru finished behind them having four points from three outings.
The pair played out a 1-1 draw in their group engagement.
“We have met each other five times. We play the final of the Federation Cup again on Sunday. Sometimes it gets boring to play the same team over and over again. But we have to play. So we have to focus on the game and try and win the match,” Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen said at the pre-match press conference.
“We are not thinking of the (Fed Cup) final. We are thinking about tomorrow’s match against Bengaluru FC. The motivation is to win the match and keep the momentum,” Sen added.
The coach also said centre-back Anas Edathodika won’t be available for Wednesday’s match as the India defender is struggling with back pain.
Bengaluru beat them 2-1 in the AFC Cup first leg meeting while Mohun Bagan thrashed the Blues at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium 3-0 in the I-League where they finished second behind Aizawl.
In their first meeting in the I-League, it was a goalless affair.
“This will be our fifth game in 8 days and it’s a situation we have to manage. The heat in Cuttack has taken a lot out of the squad and it was only fair that some of the boys get time to recover before the final. Wednesday’s AFC Cup game is a great chance for the other boys on the squad who have been thorough professionals and have put their hand up whenever the team has needed them,” Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca said.
“No matter what squad Mohun Bagan or we decide to go with, I have no illusions of this game being one where we can afford to take our foot off the pedal. The conditions will be tougher for us and I’m confident that the boys will make the most of the experience,” he added.
Mohun Bagan, out of the AFC Cup knockouts race, are likely to field a second-string side as they have their eyes fixed on the final on Sunday.
Bengaluru will be without the services of Chhetri (injured), Harmajyot Singh Khabra and midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh as the duo are suspended.
The Albert Roca-coached side have everything to play for as they are top of Group E with nine points from four outings.
Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation are also on nine points from four matches but lie second due to inferior head-to-head record.
Bengaluru beat Maziya by a solitary goal in the latter’s own den.
Mohun Bagan have three points from four games in the AFC Cup group stages. Sanjoy Sen’s men have lost thrice in the continental competition.
Dhaka Abahani Limited from Bangladesh, the other team in the group, are also out of reckoning for a knockout berth lying last with three points from four ties.