JDT's possible AFC Cup quarter-final opponents: Who are they?
Club: Bengaluru FC
Summary: Just three years ago, Bengaluru FC did not exist and their rise in the world of football has been nothing short of astounding.
Strengthened by several star signings, as well as the appointment of coach and former Manchester United trainee Ashley Westwood, Bengaluru ended their first year in existence with a bang as they clinched the domestic league title in 2014.
Their win allowed them to qualify for the AFC Cup after they failed in the AFC Champions League qualifiers and in their first continental campaign they surpassed all expectations to make the round of 16.
This year, they are back with a vengeance as they not only claimed the league title that Mohun Bagan snatched from them last year, but also qualified for the AFC Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
Bengaluru now might face either Tampines Rovers, South China or Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in the final eight.
The Indian outfit will be familiar with two of the three foes. South China eliminated them from the tournament in 2015, with a 2-0 victory at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground.
More recently, Bengaluru were drawn into Group H with JDT. There, Bengaluru not only suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Lao Toyota FC, they were also outclassed both times by the Malaysian champions.
Fortunately, the Indian side managed to win its remaining matches to qualify for the last 16 with nine points, before just managing to overcome Kitchee FC 3-2 in Hong Kong.
However, a semi-final spot might just be out of Bengaluru’s reach as they could miss the services of several key players.
The Indian Super League (ISL) competition commences around the same time the AFC Cup quarter-finals are played and many first teamers have signed to play in the three-month league.
Weaknesses: The loss of Ashley Westwood. As if losing the services of their first teamers wasn’t bad enough, Bengaluru will have to try to reach the next round without their star head coach.
Westwood stepped down after he chose not to renew his contract, which expired at the end of last month.
This is a man that has been pivotal over Bengaluru’s short journey and he will be a tough act to follow. Without him, Bengaluru might lack the tactical nous needed to make the next stage.
Strengths: Few and far between. If they’re lucky, Bengaluru may get the chance to field at least a second-string team as most of their better talent will be playing in the ISL.
Difficulty rating: Arguably the best opponents to draw.