Albert Roca has called on his Bengaluru FC side to stand up to the challenge of what will be their sternest test yet when they take on reigning champions Johor Darul Ta’zim in the first leg of the AFC Cup semifinal at the Larkin Stadium, in Malaysia, on Wednesday.
“We know everything about the opponent. They deserve to be here and are a very strong rival. We are not scared about that. For us, it’s a nice challenge and the aim is to put on a performance,” said Roca while addressing the press on Tuesday.
But much has changed for the Indian champions since then, who brought on Spanish coach Roca and shuffled the player roster too. “Yes, we haven’t beaten Johor yet but we’ve had two very close games and we can take positives from that. We are a stronger team now than when we last played them. We have a new coach, new systems, a few new players and it’s all coming together. We go into every game wanting to score and win and tomorrow will be no different,” said defender John Johnson who has been with the Blues for three seasons now.
An interesting sub-plot to the game will be the battle between Bengaluru’s defence and Johor’s free-scoring Argentine strikers Martin Lucero and Pereyra Diaz. Meanwhile, in
Having progressed after playing out a 0-0 draw (1-0 aggregate) against Tampines Rovers in Singapore last week, the Blues chose to stay back and took a bus across the border to Johor, on Sunday. However, they will still be without Udanta Singh, Lalchhuanmawia and Keegan Pereira (injury and illness). “We do have a few injuries and unfortunately, those players cannot participate. But that is not an excuse as we have a good squad and we have to prove it tomorrow,” said Roca. The semifinal will be only Roca’s third competitive game since taking charge but he was confident of the way the team has been responding to the change. “We have tried to create a new philosophy and our team is improving. We are inching closer to the way we want to play. We know our limits, but we know we cannot sleep and we have to keep progressing as a team. The game kicks off at 6.15 pm IST.
The game kicks off at 6.15 pm IST.
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