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Bengaluru FC refurbished to face the unknown in AFC Cup

On Wednesday, Albert Roca’s team faces North Korean side April 25 SC in an AFC Cup Inter-zonal semifinal.

Published: 23rd August 2017 11:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd August 2017 11:17 AM   |  A+A-

Bengaluru FC players train ahead of their clash in an AFC Cup Inter-zonal semifinal. | Express Photo Service

Bengaluru FC players train ahead of their clash in an AFC Cup Inter-zonal semifinal. | Express Photo Service

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Coaching in Indian football is difficult. With teams often overhauled, coaches have to build from scratch. The state of Bengaluru FC reflects the struggle When Spaniard Albert Roca took charge as coach last season, he had 45 days to prepare a team and compete in the AFC Cup.

This time, the situation is even critical. Following BFC’s Indian Super League inclusion, the club had to prepare a team in less than 30 days and play in the continental tournament. On Wednesday, Roca’s team faces North Korean side April 25 SC in an AFC Cup Inter-zonal semifinal at Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

BFC have kept their Asian dream alive after a patchy start to the season. But players who were integral parts of Roca’s plans are no longer with the club, which had to bring in 14 new faces. In addition, English defender John Johnson is unavailable for the entire continental campaign. But if putting the team together was a challenge, gathering information about April 25 SC was an equally tiresome task for last season’s beaten finalists.

“I wish I had more time to work with the new lads. They are still settling in and none of them has played for full 90 minutes in the pre-season. It will be a difficult game, but I’m sure my players will perform to their best,” Roca said on Tuesday.

With limited availability of video footage, BFC could only get a glimpse of their opponents from highlights. “It was difficult. We could only work on highlight videos that were available. We only know they have four players from the national team and striker (Kim Yu-song) is AFC Cup’s top scorer,” Roca said.

While Johnson’s absence will be crucial, BFC will have core players in each department. They played most of the last season in 3-4-3 formation and are expected to retain the strategy. The defence, led by Juan Gonzalez, will have Nishu Kumar with Rahul Bheke or Zohmingliana Ralte. The new-look midfield will be led by Dimas Delgado in a central position, with Erik Paartalu and Lenny Rodrigues on either side.

An all-North Korean side, April 25 SC is the most decorated football club in the country with 15 domestic league titles. After 25 years of absence, they are making a comeback to the continental tournament.

krishnendu@newindianexpress.com

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