South, East and Central Zones in the AFC Cup are into their penultimate round of the group stages..
With matchday five about to get underway in the Central, South and East Zones, it’s time we took a closer look at what awaits us in the AFC Cup 2017 this week:
CENTRAL ZONE (GROUP D)
Altyn Asyr (TKM) v FC Alay (KGZ): Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr face a crucial Group D encounter against Kyrgyz Republic’s FC Alay on Wednesday, as they battle it out with FC Istiqlol for the top spot in the group. Altyn Asyr and Istiglol are locked on 10 points each with two games remaining while FC Alay are already eliminated and have nothing to play for.
Altyn Asyr are expected to cruise through this game since Alay are yet to pick up a single point so far. A win on Wednesday and another win on the final day against Istiqlol will see the Turkmenistan side progress to the Inter-Zonal semifinals. The disadvantage for Altyn Asyr is that Istiqlol have the better head-to-head record as of now.
Venue: Sport Toplumy, Balkanabat
Kick-off: May 17, 17:00 UTC+5
Dordoi FC (KGZ) v FC Istiqlol (TJK): FC Istiqlol, who are top of the group, face an away sojourn to Kyrgyz Republic as they take on Dordoi FC in the penultimate group game of the AFC Cup, knowing that they cannot afford to drop points with Altyn Asyr breathing down their necks. Dordoi FC only have one win to show for their efforts and have already been eliminated from the tournament.
Istiqlol will be without the suspended Amirbek Juraboev, while the hosts are missing Jursanbek Sheratov for the same reason. Two wins from here on will guarantee Istiqlol’s place in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinal.
Venue: Dolen Omurzakov Stadium, Bishkek
Kick-off: May 17, 19:00 UTC+6
SOUTH ZONE (GROUP E)
Maziya Sports & Recreation (MDV) v Abahani Limited Dhaka (BAN): Maldivian side Maziya S&RC gave themselves a good chance of progressing from Group E with a 5-2 win over Mohun Bagan last weekend and now have the chance to take one step further towards topping the group when they welcome Bangladeshi side Abahani Limited Dhaka on Wednesday.
Maziya have Milos Kovacevic available after suspension while Abahani Dhaka, who upset group leaders Bengaluru FC 2-0 last time out, will be without Nasir Chowdhury. The Bangladeshi side have no option but to win in order to keep their slim hopes of progression alive.
Venue: National Stadium, Male
Kick-off: May 17, 16:00 UTC+6
Mohun Bagan (IND) v Bengaluru FC (IND): Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan will battle each other for the fifth time this season when the Indian giants take to the field in Kolkata in a Group E AFC Cup encounter on Wednesday. Group leaders Bengaluru FC were consigned to a surprise 2-0 defeat in the last round by Abahani Dhaka and will be desperate to get back to winning ways.
But standing in their way is arch-rival Mohun Bagan who have had a disappointing campaign in Asia this time around. Still, they will bea tough nut to crack for Albert Roca’s side who will not have the services of Harmanjot Khabra and John Johnson. Bagan, who have only a win to their name so far, will be eliminated if they lose against Bengaluru. Expect sparks to fly this time.
Venue: Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, Kolkota
Kick-off: May 17, 19:00 UTC+5:30
EAST ZONE (GROUP I)
Erchim FC (MNG) v 4.25 SC (PRK): North Korean side 4.25 SC will end their group campaign on Wednesday when they take on Mongolian side Erchim FC at Ulaanbaatar. But they know that they will secure a spot in the Inter-Zonal semifinals if they defeat Erchim FC, since they have the better head-to-head record over Kigwancha SC, the other team in the three-team group.
Erchim themselves can progress of they manage to beat 4.25 SC on Wednesday and then Kigwancha in the final group game. But it appears to be highly unlikely, considering that the Mongolians shipped nine goals unanswered so far in their two games.
Venue: Football Centre MFF, Ulaanbaatar
Kick-off: May 17, 16:00 UTC+8