2018-03-07 08:28:56 BdST

Abahani aim to break Maldivian jinx




Following another successful domestic season, six-time Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani are all set to embark on another international campaign when the Sky Blues square off against Maldives Premier League champions New Radiant SC in the AFC Cup Qualifiers at the Bangabandhu National Stadium today.

The match will get underway at 4:15pm.

Abahani have never gone past the qualifying stages of any AFC-sanctioned tournament before but the Dhanmondi-based outfit are expecting something better this time around. Their group, Group E, consists of two Indian clubs a Maldivian team as it did in the previous edition, where Abahani finished last in their group.

Although Abahani have secured a few points against Indian clubs, they have failed to do so against any side from Maldives, who are now superior to Bangladesh at both the national and club level.

Last season Abahani suffered 2-0 defeats at the hands of Maziya S&RC in two encounters while Saif SC succumbed to two defeats in the AFC Cup play-off Qualifiers against TC Sports Club, who also beat Abahani 1-0 in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup in 2017.

"We were used to beating Maldivian sides at any level. I even scored twice against New Radiant SC although I was not scorer. We have suffered in every match in the recent past. It will be good for us if we can come out of this losing streak against Maldives," said Abahani coach Saiful Bari Titu.

"We have worked on the opponents' playstyle, formation and combination alongside preparing ourselves according to our strength. I think our boys are ready and motivated to do something better against New Radiant and I can assure you that the boys will be fighting for the result," said the former national footballer.

Abahani will also be hoping to translate their domestic performances onto the international scene in the presence of successful striking duo Emeka Darlington and Sunday Chizoba. And the inclusion of Japanese midfielder Seiya Kojima and Nigerian defender Nigerian Alison Udoka will also certainly boost them in their pursuit.

Oscar Bruzon, Titu's counterpart, has good options himself, with strikers Ali Faisar and the famed Ali Ashfaq in rich vein of form. However, the Spaniard was concerned by the condition of the Bangabandhu National Stadium as New Radiant's possession game relies on a smooth surface.

"We have watched some videos of Abahani and analysed two things -- one was the pitch and the second was their playstyle. We are well-informed about their long, second ball and physical game but we don't know about the condition of pitch at the moment," said Oscar. "We are a team who like to play possession football and control the game, but that depends on the condition of the pitch, which we will see this afternoon during our scheduled practice."

"Hard-work, confidence, unity, fighting spirit and understanding of what they can play are components behind our domestic successes and what saw us remain unbeaten for 17 consecutive games in last season. But tomorrow's game is the toughest one because this tournament is tougher than our domestic competition," said Oscar, who guided New Radiant to a treble last season.

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