Pune: Searching for their first win in the AFC Cup, Churchill Brothers will take on Warriors FC of Singapore in their third group match of the continental football tournament, here Tuesday. Churchill were thrashed 0-3 away in their first Group E match by Kitchee of Hong Kong and then played out a 2-2 draw with Semen Padang at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here, a venue the Goan side had to chose for its home matches after the Nehru Stadium at Margao was rendered unavailable.
The I-League leaders need a win tomorrow to remain in contention for a round of 16 berth in the continent's second tier club competition. Warriors FC are in an even worse position as the Singaporean side has lost both its matches. Churchill had started the season brilliantly, before experiencing a dip in form, as they could manage only seven points out of the possible 18 in their last six I-League fixtures. They, though, are still at the top of table.
Their problems started after the winter transfer window opened with defensive mainstay Bilal Najjarin, the Lebanese international, leaving the club after receiving a lucrative offer from Fujairah SC of the UAE. Churchill defence had looked porous in the absence of Najjarin. Akram Moghrabi also moved elsewhere after having scored crucial goals for the club in the I-League.
The Goans have replaced Moghrabi with prolific Afghan striker Balal Arezou. Sunil Chhetri, the captain of the Indian team, is also a part of the side now, after managing only a handful of appearances at Sporting Lisbon 'B' side.
But the biggest loss for Churchill will be the absence of Brazilian playmaker Roberto Mendes Silva, known popularly as Beto, who has been the team's highest goal-scorer this season with 15 strikes so far. The midfielder has suffered a hamstring injury recently, and it will be interesting to see how the team performs without his services.
Warriors FC, on the other hand, have had one their worst domestic S-League starts in many years. Still without a win in the AFC Cup, pressure has been mounting on coach V Selvaraj to eke out a win tomorrow and get back on track for qualification to the next round.
They have just seven points from as many matches in the S-League so far. The Singapore side has also conceded seven goals in its last two outings in the competition, and Churchill would look to take advantage of the defensive loopholes of their opponents.