In a fixture that has more than just its fair share of pre-game hoopla, Bengaluru FC will take on Kerala Blasters with a chance to go two points clear at the top of the table should they make it a third straight win on the road, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Monday.
After an opening-day win over Chennaiyin FC and a draw against Jamshedpur FC at home, Carles Cuadrat’s men picked all points at Pune and Kolkata to string together a nice little momentum of sorts. But the Spaniard believes the Blues will have their task cut out if they are to keep the run going, given Kerala Blasters’ desperation to snap out of having played four straight draws.
“We are in the middle of a good moment where things are working for us, but we will be up against a team that is playing at home and more importantly, wants to get back to winning ways. Like us, they are unbeaten in the competition and that is a good enough reason for us to understand that Monday will be tough,” said Cuadrat, while addressing the media.
David James’ team kicked the season off with a 2-0 win away at ATK before drawing the next four games to keep them at sixth position on the points table. Interestingly, all these games have been goal-scoring draws and Bengaluru FC’s defence, which has conceded the least number of goals (3) so far this season, will have to be on top of their game at the Nehru Stadium.
Juanan Gonzalez and Albert Serran have been solid at heart of Bengaluru FC’s defence, while Nishu Kumar and Rahul Bheke’s willingness to dart forward in attack has given Cuadrat just the kind of balance he prefers. Rino Anto made his ISL debut for the Blues, coming off the bench against ATK where he put in an impressive shift, giving the Bengaluru FC manager more options.
“It’s hard to replace players like John Johnson and Subhasish Bose, but our defence has done a commendable job. Albert has wasted little time in forming a partnership with Juanan and Nishu has risen to the occasion when we have needed him. Like I said, we have something good going for us and we need to work hard to keep it like that,” said Cuadrat.
The last time the two teams met in Kerala, Bengaluru FC ran away 3-1 winners on New Year’s Eve. Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring with a penalty, before Miku put the game to bed with two late strikes in injury time. The Blues’ attack hasn’t veered from form this season too, with both, Chhetri and Miku, among the goals.
The game kicks off at 7.30pm and will be telecast on the Star Sports network, HotStar and JioTV.