With newcomers Saif Sporting Club already eliminated from playoff stage, Abahani remain the country's only representatives in AFC Cup, the second-tier club competition in Asia.
The Bangladesh Premier League champions will play their first match of the group stage on March 7 against New Radiant club of Maldives, and they started their preparation yesterday with hopes of producing better results than in previous times.
Having enjoyed a five-day rest following a hectic domestic schedule, the Sky Blues returned to business under the supervision of new coach Saiful Bari Titu, who wants to continue the team's momentum from the premier league.
Before the start of the camp, the AFC A-licensed coach enquired details of proceedings that the club followed in the domestic competitions where they emerged champions in both Federation Cup and Bangladesh Premier League. The former national coach believes it is important to keeping the system running in order to do well in AFC Cup.
“Despite the departure of Croatian coach Drago Mamic, Abahani posted eight wins on the way of retaining the league title, so the way Abahani advanced in the league was a successful one and I just want to continue that process which the players are comfortable with.
“I will try to minimise mistakes that cost dearly in international matches and I will try to insert a couple of formations because those may be needed during international matches. I will also work on fitness, transition, counter-attacking, defending, set-pieces and other tactical things during three weeks before the first match,” Titu said yesterday.
The former Chittagong Abahani coach believes playing four foreign players will be a big task for him as the club only played with two foreign players in the domestic competitions as per the rules.
The Sky Blues, who finished fourth in four-team group in last edition of AFC Cup, have been pitted against Maldives Premier League champions New Radiant, I-League champions Aizawl FC and the play-off winners between Bengaluru FC of India and TC Sports Club of Maldives. The new Abahani coach believes all teams from the sub continent are good.
“No opponents are weak at this stage and Abahani are not a weak side either. This time our team will have the advantage of having four foreign players including one in Asian quota which the club did not avail in the last edition,” said Titu, who has already watched video footages of the opponents for having an idea about those teams.
“New Radiant have Ali Ashfaq, two Spanish players -- one midfielder and one striker -- and one defender from either Lebanon or Afghanistan while Aizawl FC boast players from mostly hilly areas of Mizoram and they have a Spanish coach too. So nothing will be easy.
“Every team will have 50-50 chance but we will have to turn the matches 100 percent in our favour by committing less number of mistakes and availing opportunities. Besides, if we want to progress to the next round, we will have to cash in on advantages of all home matches” said Titu, who considers this competition as a big platform to boost his coaching career.
Abahani's foreign players -- Nigerian Sunday Chizoba, Emeka Darlington, Gambian Landing Darboe, Ghanaian Samad Yussif and Japanese Seiya Kojima -- did not join training on the first day, but they are expected to join the camp within a few days.