Tampines enter this AFC Cup quarter-final return leg trailing 1-0 to the Indian champions after Bengaluru upset the odds to clinch a slender but precious advantage over the Stags.
The first leg was nearly called off due to crowd unrest in Bangalore, but an agreement to play the match behind closed doors allowed the game to continue, albeit at an earlier time.
At that point, almost everyone had backed Tampines to comfortably stroll to victory over a side that was robbed of its home fans’ support and was playing its first competitive fixture of the season. In addition, Bengaluru were reeling from the departure of fan-favourite manager Ashley Westwood as well as some key players.
But the 1-0 score in Bengaluru’s favour proved that at this stage of the competition, nothing can be taken for granted in the AFC Cup.
In the return leg, Tampines will be hoping that their homeground advantage can help them attain the result needed to progress to the competition’s semi-final for the first time in their history.
However, they will need to be very cautious going into this game. Having to overturn a one-goal deficit means that Tampines have to take the initiative.
Yet, this could lead to them opening up at the back and run the risk of conceding an away goal. In the event the aggregate score was level, Bengaluru will be able to go through on the away goal rule as the Stags failed to score back in India.
Fazrul Nawaz and Shahdan Sulaiman continue to be the long-term absentees and they might be joined by captain Mustafic Fahrudin on the treatment table, after he picked up an injury in India.
However, his place could be taken by the equally-capable Fabian Kwok.
Tampines do need goals but they did not call upon Sufian Anuar from the bench against Bengaluru after going behind, so it will be no surprise if coach Akbar Nawas opts against starting the former LionsXII striker again.
Bengaluru have not reported any major injuries and those who started against Tampines in the first leg are expected to feature heavily once again.
It is a pretty simple equation for the Stags now. They have to score by hook or crook, or crash out of the AFC Cup.
Billy Mehmet did not have the best of games against Bengaluru a week ago, but he was one of the most hard working players on the pitch and he will be hoping it pays off for him on Wednesday evening.
Once again, the Stags will have to overcome goalkeeper Amrinder Singh. The custodian was rarely tested in the first leg, but still did well when called upon.
His bravery in coming out for challengers will serve him well in his aerial battle with Mehmet, as the latter is a really good header of the ball.
Things simply did not work for Akbar in the first half of the first leg last week and he will be looking to avoid a repeat of that performance.
Tampines did improve after the break and became more threatening going forward, so whatever the coach tried then, he will be looking to do the same in the return leg.
Bengaluru coach Albert Roca believes his side fully deserved their win at Bengaluru but he urged caution for the return fixture.
So one can assume he will be instructing his side to take its time with possession and not needlessly pour forward and leave gaps in the defence.