With Bangladesh Premier League champions Bashundhara Kings being placed directly in the group stages of the upcoming AFC Cup, Abahani are likely to get chance to compete in the pre-qualifiers of Asia’s second-tier club tournament as the second Bangladeshi outfit.
The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) has already sent the two teams’ names within the AFC’s November 22 deadline.
The league champions from Bangladesh, India and Maldives, subject to fulfilling requisite criteria, get the chance to play directly in the group stages while domestic cup champions are given the opportunity in the pre-qualifying round. Abahani’s name was sent because they finished as runners-up in the last league season.
According to the BFF, the AFC is likely to endorse Abahani and they will play in the pre-qualifying round. The draw of AFC Cup will be held on December 10.
Six-time league champions Abahani, who had qualified as Federation Cup champions last season, advanced to the inter-zone semifinal before losing 5-4 on aggregate to North Korean club April 25. They had won the home leg 4-3 before losing the away leg 2-0.
But this time they have to face tough challenge to get past pre-qualifiers.
“I think any stage of the AFC Cup will be a challenge. You are always facing the best teams from their respective country but I do feel last season give us confidence and experience and we will face every team like last season; to win,” Abahani’s Portuguese coach Mario Lemos said yesterday.
Lemos squad will be almost identical to last season but they have added two local and as many foreign players.
“This year we will be a better team. It’s my second season with Abahani. We retained 90 per cent of the team and new local and foreign signings will have an impact,” said Lemos, who is looking forward to having a good pre-season ahead of the upcoming Federation Cup.
“It’s very important to get the team back in shape and to adapt new players to the way we play and our tactics. We have responsibilities in the Federation Cup because for the last 3 seasons, we have won the cup and of course we want to win it this year also,” said Lemos.