Kingfisher East Bengal will look to keep its record of being the first Indian club to complete the group league fixtures unbeaten in AFC Cup when it takes on the Saigon Xuan Thanh of Vietnam in the concluding group-H match at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday.
Having already qualified for the pre-quarterfinals with a 2-2 draw in the previous round against Selangor FA of Malaysia, East Bengal will be keen to seal the top position in the group. A draw will be enough for it to secure the top slot, where it is currently positioned with 11 points from five matches.
“We need to win to finish top and keep the confidence intact. This will also mean that we get to play the next round’s knock-out fixture at home,” said East Bengal’s English coach Trevor Morgan.
The group winners get the right to host the next round matches at home. “Being No. 1 makes a good reading and we would like to do that with a win,” Morgan said looking at the success record of his team, which won both its previous two home matches in the tournament. East Bengal will miss striker Manandeep Singh and midfielder Mehtab Hossain to suspension while its other midfielder Harmanjot Khabra is injured. “We will have a different midfield orientation tomorrow but we hope to keep our good form intact,” Morgan said.
East Bengal played out a goalless draw with Saigon Xuan Thanh visiting Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City in the second round early in March. “We defended very well in that match and the result helped us in picking up a win (against Tampines Rovers) in our next ‘away’ match at Singapore,” the East Bengal coach said.
The Saigon Xuan Thanh assistant coach Nguyen Lien Thanh said his team was looking for a point that would ensure the second spot for his side and also a knock-out berth.
“We need a point from the match and we will give our best to remain unbeaten in the match,” said Lien Thanh, whose side is currently in the second spot with eight points from five matches.
“The heat will be a factor as we play in the afternoon,” he said about the 4.30 p.m. kick-off.