Match: Johor Darul Ta'zim v Bengaluru FC
Date: 28 September, Wednesday
Time: 8:45pm SGT/6:15pm IST/1:45pm BST
Venue: Larkin Stadium
Competition: 2016 AFC Cup
TV Coverage: In Singapore, the TV coverage of the clash between Johor Darul Ta'zim and Bengaluru FC will be on Fox Sports Singapore.
Johor Darul Ta'zim host Bengaluru FC in the 2016 AFC Cup semi-final first leg at the Tan Sri Dato' Hj Hassan Yunos Stadium on 28 September.
The defending champions have once again been the most dominant side in the ongoing tournament and are yet to lose a game. The Malaysian giants began their title defense collecting six wins from as many games and topped Group H.
Johor defeated their semi-final opponents both the times the two teams met in the group stage. When Bengaluru FC made a trip to the Larkin Stadium in May 2016, they were handed a 3-0 thrashing by the hosts. Coach Mario Gomez opted to go in without his four international players while the visitors, under former coach Ashley Westwood, fielded four foreign players.
With three of their players - captain Safiq Bin Rahim (7), Juan Lucero (6) and Pereyra Diaz (5) - featuring in the top-10 goal-scorers list of the tournament, Johor have been notorious for decimating their oppositions. Gomez's side eased into the quarter-final with a 7-2 over Philiphines' side Kaya. They humiliated Myanmar's Ayeyawady United 8-1 in their group clashes.
In the quarter-final, Johor were made to work hard by Hong Kong side South China. After playing out a draw in the first leg, the Malaysian side achieved a 2-1 victory in the home leg to make the progress. Argentinian duo of Lucero and Diaz once again delivered for the hosts.
Having recently won the Malaysian Super League, the hosts have not put a foot wrong in the tournament and would be hoping to continue their strong show in front of their home crowd.
On the other hand, Bengaluru will be boosted by their showing against Singapore's Tampines Rovers in their quarter-final. CK Vineeth's struck in their home leg, which was devoid of crowd support due to riots in the city, before they held the hosts to a 0-0 draw in the return leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium on 21 September.
Albert Roca has had a winning start to his reign at Bengaluru FC, who have achieved phenomenal success in their three-year history. The I-League champions became only the third side from the country after Dempo FC (2008) and East Bengal (2013) to reach the semi-final of the AFC Cup.
Bengaluru lacked defensive discipline in the group stages conceding 10 goals from their six games but have been good at the back in the knockout stages so far. Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh and defender Nishu Kumar, who complemented John Johnson well at the back, were impressive against the Tampines.
The Johnson-led defense will have to be at its top if Bengaluru are to stand a chance against the Malaysian side. A lot will also depend on how captain Sunil Chhetri pairs up with the in-form Vineeth at the front on Tuesday.
Coach Roca is wary of the daunting task in hand against Johor. Despite the lack of domestic matches in the recent past, he has urged his boys to stay positive and pose a stiff challenge in the semi-final.
"The semifinal is surely going to be even harder. We are not competing in the domestic League and have had only had two official games in three and a half months," Roca was quoted as saying by ESPN.
"It makes things difficult with regards to how physical the team will be but we need to stay positive ahead of the semifinals. The boys have shown that they are competitive and they will show more of that in a bid to make it to the final."
The visitors are upbeat after their training camp in Singapore. While the conditions might prove to be hostile for the Indian side, right-back Rino Anto maintains the pressure is on the defending champions.
"The pressure is purely on Johor. They are the champions. They have something we and two other teams want. We aren't over-confident but we aren't going there with fear either," Anto said, as quoted by Bengaluru FC's official website.
"Reaching the semifinal is a very big deal and I am certain that fans across clubs in India will be supporting us. Bengaluru FC has put Indian football on the Asian map and on Wednesday we will be attempting to go where no club in the country has gone before."
Singapore: Fox Sports Singapore
India: Star Sports 2
China: Star Sports China
Malaysia: Fox Sports Malaysia
Thailand: Fox Sports Thailand
Johor Darul Ta'zim
Possible XI: Mohd Izham Tarmizi; Mohd Aidil Zafuan, Marcos Antonio, Muhammad Fazly; Hariss Harun, Mohd Safiq, Kunanlan, Gary Steven; Mohd Amri, Pereyra Diaz, Juan Lucero
Possible XI: Arminder Singh; John Johnson, Juan Gonzalez, Rino Anto, Nishu Kumar; Alvaro Rubio, Cameroon Watson; CK Vineeth, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Alwyn George; Sunil Chhetri