Plenty at stake for BFC, Pune

Bangalore outfit keen to consolidate position at the top of the table

The advantage of having fate on your hands during the final phase of a football league season is a luxury.

I-League table-toppers, Bengaluru FC (37 from 20 matches), have that comfort when they face third-placed Pune FC (30 from 19) here at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Friday but any more slip-ups could prove fatal to their title ambitions. 

They had a glorious opportunity to extend their advantage at the top when they went to Shillong on March 23 but were beaten 0-3 by Lajong in their biggest defeat of the season thus far, pegging them back somewhat.

With both defender Curtis Osano and goalkeeper Pawan Kumar receiving their marching orders in that match, there will be a rejig at the back with Gurtej Singh partnering John Johnson at the heart of the defence.

Bruno Colaco is likely to take the place between the sticks. Pune themselves come into the match without the suspended duo of central defender Anas Edathodika and keeper Amrinder Singh.

The away side are stuggling for form – they have picked only two poins in the last three games and are without a win since February 19 – but a win against BFC will put them within four points of the leadersand that should serve as enough inspiration for them to raise the level of the game.

Usually, managers in the I-League opt to sit deep and hit the opposition on the counter in the hope of nicking all three points but there is a genuine feeling that Friday’s game will be different. That is also a sentiment which Pune FC manager Mike Snoei shared with the media in the pre-match press conference on Thursday.  

“It will be an exciting game because there will be two strong teams who want to play football. BFC have a good team and the best player of the country and we want to bring young people into the stadium, that is our philosophy,” Snoei said.

BFC coach Ashley Westwood said winning the title wasn’t the team’s primary objective ‘but if it comes our way, we would gladly take it.’ He also said that “if at the start of the season, we had been told that we would finish in fourth place, we would have paid for it.”

Given that this is the Blues’ last home match of the season, they will be pumped up to put on a show for the fans, who have thronged to the ground on all match days to act as the proverbial 12th man. Whoever wins the battle could well go on to win the league as the home stretch begins in earnest.

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