Bengaluru FC host Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Thursday. The Blues, besides being the first team to qualify this season, have also secured the top spot in the table with 37 points in their bag already. Currently, on the back of a seven-match unbeaten streak, the debutants would definitely want to hold onto their superb momentum as the semi-finals loom in front.
FC Goa’s win on Wednesday against ATK means that the two-time finalists Kerala are out of contention for a semi-final berth. Though they are enjoying a five-match unbeaten run, the formidable Blues will ensure that the win doesn’t come easy. With nothing to gain or lose, the visitors will go all out to pick maximum points against their Southern rivals to gift their passionate fans enough reasons to rejoice.
HEAD TO HEAD
Bengaluru FC 1–0 Kerala Blasters FC
Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Bengaluru’s captain has been in scintillating form this season. He has carved open opposition defences at will and has been clinical in front of goal. He is the first Indian to have bagged 10 goals in a single season in the history of Hero ISL. With a couple of assists as well, he will look to influence his side to another win to keep the momentum on track.
Jackichand Singh (Kerala Blasters FC)
The winger has been an effective player on the flanks for Kerala. His pace and quick feet have outfoxed many an opposition and he provides plenty of crosses in each game. Not shy of surging forward and taking on the goal, Jackichand has two goals and three assists to his name and will have to fire all cylinders against a threatening Bengaluru.
POTENTIAL STARTING LINEUPS
Albert Roca will probably go for a 4-1-4-1 formation, which relies heavily on their midfield and flanks for proper service to the striker.
Goalkeeper: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
Defenders: Harmanjot Khabra, Rahul Bheke, Boithang Haokip, Subhasish Bose
Midfielders: Toni Dovale, Dimas Delgado, Erik Paartalu, Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh
Bengaluru head coach on his team’s current mentality: “It is the last game of the season and we would just like to win, and have the same mentality that we have maintained throughout the season. We will have to be strong because we know how difficult the playoffs can be. Tomorrow is our last game, so we will give our best. I expect a difficult game tomorrow.”
Kerala Blasters FC
David James is likely to use a regular 4-4-2 formation as the Blasters look for a balance between attack and defence.
Goalkeeper: Subhasish Roy
Defenders: Lalruatthara, Wes Brown, Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Rino Anto
Midfielders: Courage Pekuson, Dimitar Berbatov, Milan Singh, Jackichand Singh
Forwards: Gudjon Baldvinsson, CK Vineeth
Kerala head coach on his team’s approach to the match: “We only need one goal. A 1 – 0 will do and I don’t care who scores. We have a full-strength squad. That means every player is available for selection and it’s down to how the squad plays. We are playing a different opposition in Bengaluru. That is why they are so far apart in the league. So, the team selection would be based on how to nullify Bengaluru’s strength.”
– Bengaluru have won the most number of matches (12) while Kerala have drawn the most (7) this season
– Both teams have the least number of losses this season (4)
Kerala Blasters FC 1 – 3 Bengaluru FC (31st December 2017 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi)
FORM GUIDE (Last five matches)
Bengaluru FC: W D W W W
Kerala Blasters FC: D W D W W