Federation Cup winner Bengaluru FC will look to continue their good run when they face FC Istiklol in the first leg of the zonal final of the AFC Cup at the Hisor Central Stadium on Wednesday.
“We know how close we are to a shot at the final but we’ve kept that out of our thoughts for the moment. Over the next two games, it’s only Istiklol that we are concerned about,” BFC Head Coach Albert Roca told reporters.
The Blues set up the clash with the runners-up of the 2015 edition of the tournament after staving off a fight from North Korean side 4.25 SC to emerge 3-0 winners on aggregate.
The task, however, won’t be an easy one given the rival’s recent run of form, and Roca wants his team to be aware of the threat they pose.
“It’s going to be tough to get a good result against a team that has played a final before, but we are motivated to give our best. They are more matured than us, given they have just finished the league as champions,” he said.
Moreover, their unbeaten streak isn’t just limited to the continental stage, as they are also unbeaten in 24 competitive games in the 2017 season so far.
As many as 13 of their 19 wins during this period have come in the Tajik League where they clinched the 2017 title in 16 games with five rounds to play.
Istiklol, however, will be without the services of as many as three players — David Mawutor (Ghana), Amirbek Juraboev and Ukrainian defender Artem Baranovskyi — all of whom would miss the game with suspensions.
Roca said his side wouldn’t be making much of it given the depth in their quality.
The Spaniard has a complete squad to choose from and while he rolled out an unchanged starting eleven over two legs against 4.25 SC, Roca could mull a few changes against the Tajik side.
The Bengaluru defence, who did well to keep two clean sheets against 4.25 SC, will have their task cut out against a free-scoring Istiklol side that made it to the zonal final after a 5-1 aggregate result over Philippines side Ceres Negros.