AFC Cup 2021: ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Nasaf in unfamiliar Uzbek territory in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semis

AFC Cup 2021: ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Nasaf in unfamiliar Uzbek territory in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semis
AFC Cup 2021: ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Nasaf in unfamiliar Uzbek territory in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semis

AFC Cup 2021: ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Nasaf in unfamiliar Uzbek territory in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semis- Up against a formidable opponent in unfamiliar territory, ATK Mohun Bagan will start as underdogs in their AFC Cup Interzone Semi-final against FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan on Wednesday.

ATK Mohun Bagan is without central defender Sandesh Jinghan, who has joined Croatian club Sibenik since the 1-1 draw with Bashundhara Kings which saw the Indian side advance as South Asian Zonal champions.

Another heavyweight Hugo Boumos is also out, having been omitted from the squad to make way for Joni Kauko, a newly signed midfielder who appeared in all three of Finland’s matches at UEFA Euro 2020 earlier this year.

The 2020 Uzbekistan Super League runners-up will play the make-or-break clash in the familiar surrounds of Markaziy Stadium, a venue where they have tasted defeat just twice in 11 home matches this season, including their 3-2 win over Turkmenistan’s FC Ahal in the previous round of the continental tournament.

AFC Cup 2021: ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Nasaf in unfamiliar Uzbek territory in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semis

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In contrast, ATK Mohun Bagan have had to travel via Dubai in their bid to advance to next month’s Inter-Zone Final against Lee Man FC of Hong Kong, and have been out of domestic league action since March, with three AFC Cup group stage fixtures in August their only competitive action in over six months.

Despite the lack of competitive preparation matches, Antonio Lopez Habas’ side hope to make up for it in talent and ambition.

The star attacking duo of Roy Krishna and David Williams have travelled after combining for three of the team’s six goals in the group stage, while goalkeeper Amrinder Singh will be aiming to build on a positive start to life at ATK Mohun Bagan.

Fans of the Kolkata-based side will, at the very least, be expecting a far better result than the last Indian team to venture to Karshi for an AFC Cup clash, with Dempo suffering a 9-0 defeat in the group stage back in 2011.

AFC Cup 2021: ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Nasaf in unfamiliar Uzbek territory in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semis

Nasaf is match fit, focused, and in form. Chasing the trophy, a decade after the club won it in 2011, the settled nature of Ruzikul Berdiev’s outfit is underlined by the fact there are no changes to the squad which successfully navigated the Central Asian Zonal Final last month.

Serbian duo of Marko Stanojevic and Andrija Kaluderovic — both goal scorers against Ahal — may be well known to fans from outside Uzbekistan, but Nasaf’s strength lies in their deep pool of young local talent, with Sherzod Nasruallev, Khusayin Norachaev, Akmal Mozgovoy and Khusniddin Alikulov all under 25, and all influential in the competition so far.

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AFC Cup 2021: ATK Mohun Bagan face FC Nasaf in unfamiliar Uzbek territory in AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semis