Second-string Bagan face Club Valencia in AFC Cup play-off (Preview)

Male (Maldives) Feb 20 (IANS) Sans head coach Sanjoy Sen on the touchline and a raft of first team players, Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan will take on Club Valencia of the Maldives in their Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Cup play-off round at the National Stadium here on Tuesday.

Mohun Bagan assistant coach Shankarlal Chakraborty will take charge in the absence of Sen. The second leg at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Sen cited personal reasons behind not travelling to Maldives while important players like Sony Norde, Debjit Majumder, Pritam Kotal, Pronay Halder, Souvik Chakraborty and Jeje Lalpekhlua are also being rested for the first leg.

Bagan thrashed Sri Lankan outfit Colombo FC 4-2 over two legs in the preliminary stage of the competition which is similar to the Europa League in Europe.

All eyes will be on Mohun Bagan striker Balwant Singh who scored a quickfire brace in their last I-League game at home against DSK Shivajians, turning the game on its head after the visitors had taken the lead. Bagan had won that game 3-1.

In contrast, Club Valencia come into the tie after losing all six of their last six league games which ended in December.

“Valencia are a very strong side and they have very good players. We have come here to win the game and we are fully prepared. For us every player is the same. Each player in our squad has the quality to play in the first team so it’s not an issue for me”, Chakraborty said on the eve of the match.

“Even without key players such as Jeje, Sony we are ready to face Valencia. They are a very good strong team with rich history and laden with trophies and have good foreigners”, he added.

The last time Bagan locked horns with a Maldives side, the honours were shared in a 1-1 draw against Maziya Sports Club.