Singapore: Heaving a sigh of relief with their star striker Sunil Chhetri reaching here after initial denial of visa, Churchill Brothers would look to seal their first away win when they take on Warriors FC in a crucial AFC Cup group match Wednesday.
Chhetri was granted visa after the intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs on the request of the Sports Authority of India. His team-mate and Afghan striker Balal Arezou was also initially denied visa before being cleared to travel to Singapore after submitting more relevant documents.
A win for Churchill against their opponents, whom they had beaten 3-0 in the home leg in Pune on April 2, would keep them in the hunt for a pre-quarterfinal berth. Churchill are third in the group with four points from three matches. Though the Singapore side would enjoy the home advantage, the domination the Goan side enjoyed in Pune should give them the confidence to come out winners at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Chhetri and Arezou are expected to reach here early tomorrow and they will be available for the Group E match, but the team management will have to take a call on whether the duo would play or not since they will miss out on match practice.
"I will have to take a decision if they can start the match since they might be experiencing jet lag. We have some important matches coming up in our domestic league and to be honest we have not played a full strength squad in any of our AFC Cup matches since our first target is to win I-League," said Technical Director, Subhash Bhowmick, at the pre-match press conference.
"Chhetri will not want to sit on bench, so I will most probably rest Arezou. But I do hope to rest Chhetri and get him ready for our game against Dempo," he said. "The boys are proud to represent their country in such a prestigious continental tournament but we have to maintain a balance so as to not hamper our chances of winning the I-League. I am satisfied with our performance in AFC Cup so far with four points from three matches," he added.
Churchill will continue to miss the services of playmaker Roberto Mendis da Silva (Beto) as he is yet to recover from an injury. "We will also be without Roberto Silva as he is still recovering from an injury. We will definitely start with our Senegalese defender Lamine Tamba and Gabon striker Henry Antchouet," Bhowmick said.
The Warriors have made a woeful start to the tournament with three straight losses, but coach V Selvaraj has not given up yet on the competition and expects an improved performance from his side Wednesday. "It will be quiet different conditions from last week (in Pune) when we played in the afternoon and I believe the result will be different too. Some players are coming back from injury and thus I have more options," he said.
"We are in a difficult position because we need to get maximum points from our remaining three matches and hope that other teams drop points to make it past the group stage. But I believe we are well prepared now and if we get a positive result, things will turn around."