AFC Cup semi-final: Bengaluru FC wary of Johor Darul Ta'zim despite absence of Lucero, Pereyra

The Malaysian giants will miss their two top-scorers for the 2016 AFC Cup semi-final second leg.

Jaun Martin Lucero
File Photo (R) of Johor Darul Ta'zim striker Juan Lucero Reuters

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri ruled out gaining any advantage over the absence of Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) strikers Juan Martin Lucero and Pereyra Diaz for the 2016 AFC Cup semi-final second leg.

The two Argentine strikers, who are among the top five scorers of the ongoing tournament, were suspended for the second leg, which will be held at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on 19 October.

Bengaluru held the Malaysian giants to a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Larkin stadium.

Notably, it was Pereyra who opened the scoring for Johor in the first leg after which Eugeneson Lyngdoh netted the equaliser for the I-League champions. The visitors' goalkeeper Amrinder Singh along with the John Johnson-led backline played a crucial part to keep the defending AFC Cup champions from doing any further damage.

Chhetri maintained that they would not focus on their oppositions' setback and that even the away goal might not be a crucial factor as a "fresh 90 minutes" awaits them. The India international, who is also the country's all-time scorer with 51 goals, added Wednesday's semi-final was the biggest match of his club career.

"To think that JDT is all about their two foreign strikers would be nothing but stupidity. They have some real quality and I am saying this from having played them four times now," Chettri was quoted as saying by The Field.

"The only advantage we have is the away goal. This is a fresh 90 minutes and you can never tell the script days before."

"Yes, it is the biggest game of my club career. It is simply because we have a chance of going where no Indian club has been before. I have never been in a situation like this. We're putting the country on the Asian map and it's a very big deal."

Since its inception in 2013, Bengaluru FC have achieved tremendous success by winning the I-League title twice (2013/14, 2015/16). They also reached the AFC Cup Round of 16 in their maiden appearance in 2015 before bettering their record this year.

Despite his team's swift transformation from I-League newbies to giants, Chhetri does not ponder too much about making an impression in the AFC Champions League, Asia's top-tier competition.

He insisted that the Blues' focus should be on dominating the AFC Cup. The Bengaluru striker added they are not at all thinking about losing but only about making good use of their opportunity on Wednesday.

"As optimistic as I want to be, it's going to be some time before we start being a force to reckon with in the Asian Champions League. The quality of teams is really high," the 32-year-old added.

"But before we get talking about the Champions League and aspirations there, we need to start stamping your authority on the AFC Cup.

"If this [semi-final second leg] ends in defeat, we will be gutted, to put it simply. But we aren't even thinking about defeat. We've given ourselves a good chance to progress and we need to go out there on the 19th and grab that half chance and make it ours."

On the other hand, Johor coach Mario Gomez had said that finding replacement for his two key strikers would be a "headache". The Southern Tigers will have to rely on in-form former Malaysian international Safiq Rahim to get them a step closer towards defending the title.