Six-time Bangladesh Premier League Football champions Dhaka Abahani Limited will face off against April 25 SC (4.25) of North Korea in their home match of the knockout phase of AFC Cup 2019 on Wednesday.
The match will kick-off at 6:45pm (BdST) at Bangabandhu National Stadium.
The popular Dhanmomdi-based outfit reached home and away basis knockout phase for the first time as the champions of four-team Group E securing 13 points from six matches with four wins, one draw and one defeat.
In the home and away basis group stage, Dhaka Abahani beat Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal by 1-0 goal in Kathmandu on April 3 and played to 2-2 draw with Minerva Punjab of India in their second match in Dhaka on April 17.
Abahani conceded the lone defeat to Chennaiyin FC of India by 0-1 goals in their third match in Ahmedabad on April 30.
To keep their hope for becoming the Group E champions alive, the Sky Blue Brigade defeated Chennaiyin by 3-2 goals in their fourth match on June 15 and crushed Manang by 5-0 goals in their fifth match on June 19, both in Dhaka.
In the last and sixth group match, they beat Minerva by 1-0 goal in Guwahati on June 26.
On the other hand, DPR Korea League champions April 25 SC reached for the third time in knockout phase of AFC Cup as Group I champions securing 15 points from six matches with five wins and one defeat.
April 25 started their campaign beating Taiwanese club Hang Yuen FC by 3-0 goals in Hsinchu, Taiwan on April 3, beat Hong Kong-based Kitchee SC by 2-0 goals in their second match in Pyongyang on April 17 and another Hong Kong-based clubs Wofoo Tai Po by 3-1 goals in their third match in Hong Kong on April 30.
The DPR Korea League champions continued their winning streak beating Wofoo Tai Po by 4-0 goals on May 15 and crushing Hang Yuen FC by 5-0 goals on June 19, both in Pyongyang.
April 25 SC conceded their lone defeat to Kitchee by 0-1 goal in their last and sixth match in Hong Kong on June 26.
Abahani Head Coach Mario Lemos said they are determined to continue their fairy-tale run.
“We had two weeks for preparation after the BPL. Tomorrow’s match is very tough and we’re taking it seriously. Our team is ready for the match. It’s a final for us and we’ve to win the game,” he said in a pre-match press conference at BFF house on Tuesday.
Abahani got few blows as their two players – Alaaeldin Nasr Elsayed Eissa and Mamunul Islam – are going to miss the Wednesday’s match.
New foreign recruit Egyptian defender Alaaeldin Nasr Elsayed Eissa, who played for Maldivian TC Sports Club in AFC Cup 2018, got two yellow cards during their last match of the competition against Bengaluru FC of India on February 20.
According to the AFC rules, Eissa will not be permitted to play his next match of the competition.
On the other hand, Mamunul Islam’s participation has become uncertain due to his calf muscle injury.
“It happens in football. Some players are out and others have to step up. I expect the same performance from every player who plays for Abahani,” said Lemos.
In their group matches, Abahani scored 12 goals and conceded 5 while April 25 scored 17 and conceded 2 goals.
While asking about their gameplan, the Portuguese coach replied, “April 25 SC are very good team. They conceded just two goals. But I believe that we can score against them. Also, most of their goals come from the crosses. We’ve to just block their crosses.”
Dhaka Abahani captain Sahidul Alam Sohel said, “We’ve taken good preparation. I think we can win the match.”
On the other hand, April 25 SC head coach O Yun Son said that they will give their best in tomorrow’s match.
“Every game is important for us. We don't have any idea about Abhani. But, we’ll give our best tomorrow,” he said.
One of the key players of April 25 SC Choe Jong Hyok also said they will do their best against Dhaka Abahani.
Meanwhile, April 25 SC enriched with their five national football team players – striker Kim Yu Song, forward An Tae Song, defender Kwon Chung Hyok, right winger O Hyok Chol and defender An Song Il.
On the other hand, Dhaka Abahani’s seven players – goalkeeper Sahidul Alam Sohel, defender Tutul Hosain Badsha, midfielders Mamunul Islam and Sohel Rana, forward Nabib Newaz Jiban, Saad Uddin and Jewl Rana – have been included in the preliminary squad of Bangladesh national football team announced on August 16 to play the FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers.
After the home match, Dhaka Abahani will face April 25 SC in the away match on August 28 at the Kim-ll-Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Dhaka Abahani: Shahidul Alam Sohel (C), Raihan Hasan, Nabib Newaz Ziban, Waly Faisal, Sunday Chizoba, Kervens Belfort, Wellington Priori, Sohel Rana, Jewel Rana, Rubel Miya, Mamun Miah, Atiqur Rahman Fahad, Imtiaz Sultan Jitu, Sohel Rana, Pranotosh Kumar Das, Mamunul Islam, Tutul Hossain Badsha, Topu Barman, Saad Uddin, Alaaeldin Nasr Elsayed Eissa, Hafizur Rahman, Nayeem Mia, Sultan Ahmed Shakil, Faisal Ahmed, Mohammad Ridoy, Dipok Roy, Mohammad Rony, Ariful Islam, Syed Arafat Hossain Tasin, Ariful Islam, Lee Taemin.
April 25 SC: Kim Hyok, Choe Chol Su, Pak Jin Myong, Kwon Chung Hyok, O Hyok Chol, Om Chol Song, Jang Kum Nam, Rim Chol Min, Son Phyong Il, Yun Il Gwang, An Song Il, Kim Yu Song, Jang Hyok, An tae Song, Choe Jong Hyok, Pak Song Rok, An Song Il, An Il Bom.