Chennaiyin, Abahani Dhaka face off in AFC Cup
Ahmedabad, April 29: Chennaiyin FC (CFC) are set to welcome Abahani Limited Dhaka for their final AFC Cup Group E home game at The Arena Stadium here on Tuesday.
Going into this match-day three tie, both sides are locked on four points each with Chennaiyin at top of the table on goal difference followed by Abahani.
CFC will be buoyed after picking up their first AFC Cup group stage victory with a 2-0 win over Nepal’s Manang Marshyangdi Club in their previous outing less than two weeks back, courtesy goals by skipper Mailson Alves and Australian midfielder Chris Herd.
The clash with Abahani will be the first of a double header, with CFC travelling to Bangladesh for the reverse fixture in a fortnight.
CFC come into this one with seven clean sheets in their last 10 outings in all competitions, not having conceded in the AFC Cup campaign so far with four games played.
In terms of team news, CFC will be without Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto through injury while the rest of the squad is fit. Abahani, on the other hand, will be without their topscorer Sunday Chizoba and defenders Tapu Barman and Tutul Hossain Badsha.
“Abahani will be a big test but the boys have trained well and are 100 per cent focused for what will be our last home game of the group stage. It can be a challenge to maintain motivation with such gaps between games, but credit to the boys, they have been great professionals with some fantastic work rate,” said CFC head coach John Gregory on the eve of the match.
Interestingly, CFC assistant coach Syed Sabir Pasha has played for Abahani in the past. The former India international featured for the Bangladesh giants in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
From the current CFC squad for the AFC Cup, three players have faced Abahani in the recent past, namely Mizo sniper Jeje Lalpekhlua, Kerala forward C.K. Vineeth and Mizo central defender Zohmingliana Ralte. Jeje and Vineeth played against them for Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC, respectively, in the 2017 AFC Cup, while Ralte turned out for Bengaluru FC in the 2018 version of the event.
Nicknamed the Sky Blues, Abahani are coached by Portuguese tactician Mario Lemos who joined them in December last year after their Bangladesh Federation Cup triumph. Lemos also served as Bangladesh national team’s fitness coach for a brief period earlier last year.
The 2019 edition is Abahani’s third consecutive appearance in the AFC Cup group stage, qualifying this time as Bangladesh Federation Cup winners. The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) side haven’t progressed beyond the group stages, finishing third in their group in last year’s edition.
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