AFC Cup: Ahead of ATKMB game, Bengaluru FC coach asks team to 'play sharp'

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Male (Maldives), Aug 18 (IANS) Bengaluru FC head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli wants his team to be sharp against fellow Indian Super League (ISL) outfit ATK Mohun Bagan when the teams clash in the AFC Cup Group D South Zone opener at the National Football Stadium in here later on Wednesday.

Bengaluru FC beat Maldivian side Club Eagles 1-0 in their play-off tie on Sunday (August 15) to qualify for the group stage. Pezzaiuoli admitted that the win has instilled a lot of confidence into his team but said his team will have to start afresh against 2020/21 ISL finalists who also did the double over them last season with 1-0 and 2-0 wins.

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“Our last game was only two days ago, so it was short recovery for the team. It’s not really an advantage, but I can see the glass either as half empty or half full, and I choose to see it half full. There was a good spirit and positive energy in the team after the win.

“We are happy to be in the Group Stage of this competition. This is a new game, a new start and we have renewed focus. We need to be very sharp against ATK Mohun Bagan because I am expecting an aggressive game,” Pezzaiuoli, who has won both his games in charge so far at Bengaluru FC, said during the pre-match press conference.

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ATK Mohun Bagan have made seven new signings since their defeat in the ISL final against Mumbai City FC on March 13 earlier this year. These are Hugo Boumous, Joni Kauko (not part of their AFC Cup squad though), Deepak Tangri, Ashutosh Mehta, Amrinder Singh, Liston Colaco and Bidyananda Singh. Pezzaiuoli, whose team itself has brought in nine new faces since their seventh-place finish last season, appeared to be in awe of the signings made by the Mariners under Antonio Lopez Habas.

“ATK Mohun Bagan like to play a lot of long passes, go for the second ball and press high up on the pitch, which calls for a different approach from us. But they have also changed things in the summer by bringing in a French foreigner (Boumous), among other players. This shows that they want to win the ISL and the AFC Cup. We have to be in good spirit, show good focus and I am certain that we have a chance of winning tomorrow,” he said.

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Star goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said the competition is going to be difficult and Bengaluru FC need to be focused from start to finish.

“It’s true that things are different this time because there are fewer games to play in the Group. But it is still difficult, and we have to be focused. It was important for us to get into the Group Stage because we want to do well in Asia, as a club. Now it’s up to us to make sure we put on a good performance and try to do our best in each game.”



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