Bagan may rest key players in AFC Cup tie

March 16th, 2009 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, March 16 (IANS) Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa is toying with the idea of resting his key players in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup group B tie against Jordan’s Al Wihdat to keep them fresh for the remaining matches of the gruelling I-League.
While conceding that Al Wihdat will be as tough a rival as Syria’s Al Karama, against whom Mohun Bagan lost 0-1 in their maiden game at Sanaa, the host team’s coach Karim Bencharifa said his top priority now was the I-league where the city giants were still with a chance to win the title.

The Moroccan Bencharifa said defenders N.S. Manju, Deepak Mandal and Habibur Rahman could be rested, while ace striker Bhaichung Bhutia was likely to come into the field late. Brazilian striker Jose Barreto is already out with a back injury for the match at the Howrah Municipal stadium near here.

“Our main aim is now the I-League. I need some fresh legs for the remaining games. Wihdat is technically ahead of us,” Bencharifa said.

Mohun Bagan are now in the third position in the league with 33 points from 17 outings in the I-League. Churchill Brothers and Sporting Clube de Goa, occupy the first two slots with the same number of 39 points from 19 matches.

“Their main strength is their scoring ability. They have scored 39 while conceding only six goals in the Jordanian league,” he said.

Wihdat are coming after a 1-1 draw in their lung opener versus Kuwait SC at home.

Wihdat’s Iraqi coach Akram Salman said his squad has two national team players Hassan Fatah and Amir Khalil.

He said several of the players could not make it due to injury.

The Jordanians have arrived without defender Faisal Ibrahim and Maan Al Rashad while Mohammad Jamal and Mohammad Al Dmeiri are also out with injury.

Salman expressed unhappiness with the condition of the stadium, but said eight of his players have an idea of the conditions as they played against East Bengal last year in the previous edition of the Cup.

“We want to play good football. We want to win,” Salman said.

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