Principal Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Dempo Sports Club, which created history by becoming the first-ever club in India to enter the semifinal stage of the AFC Cup club football championship, will play its second leg semifinal clash against Safa Sports Club (Lebanon) with the handicap of missing of two key players at Gachibiowli Stadium here on Tuesday.

For a team which is determined to write a memorable chapter in the history of Indian club football, Dempo will be without the services of regular goalkeeper and India star Abhijit Mondal (out with back pain) and Beto (Roberto Silva) in the starting line-up. Dempo has already depleted without star striker Clifford Miranda (out with two yellow-card bookings). It may be a major disadvantage when it takes the field against the Lebanese club.

But Dempo captain Climax Lawrence tried to play down the issue by saying that he expects the replacements to be good enough to rise to the occasion.

“We have come thus far thanks to the collective effort of the entire team. And, we continue to look for a repetition of such an effort tomorrow in the crucial match,” he remarked after a practice session today.

Dempo assistant coach Mauricio Afonso believes that the fact that the team is one step closer to making it to the final should be a big inspiration.

“There cannot be a better feeling than to be there in the final. And, I am confident that everyone one would rally around to give his best performance,” he stressed.

Needs a victory

For the record, Dempo, having lost the first leg of the semifinal 0-1, needs a victory with a two-goal margin to make it to the final. The Dempo captain says that if the team plays to its potential, it can still beat the rivals even without the two big names.

Safa SC coach Samir Saad says that they are aware of the huge responsibility on their team. “The home advantage can be there with the huge crowd support. But, we are ready for the task,” he said.

He also made it clear that they were not trying to focus on any particular Indian player for at this level even the relatively unknown can prove to be dangerous.

With Dempo brains-trust analysing that it lost the first leg primarily due to the defensive approach in the second half and now keen to make amends, the clash on Tuesday can be exciting against a team which has just one win in an away-game in this edition. The match will not be a floodlit affair as it commences at 4 p.m.

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper