Bengaluru set for title push

Bengaluru set for title push

Football I-League : Chhetri doubtful as Westwood's men host nemesis Mumbai FC

Bengaluru set for title push

Incidents off the pitch made headlines when Bengaluru FC played Mumbai FC at the Sree Kanteerava the last time.

A bottle thrown at the visiting dugout, their chief coach play-acting a head injury and then a handful of charged up players rushing on to the stands to confront a hostile crowd — the scenes still remain fresh in many minds.

All this would count for nothing when Bengaluru FC once again welcome their nemesis for their I-League encounter here on Saturday, after losing to them 0-2 in the away match in Mumbai in January.

Bengaluru and Mumbai come into this game on the back of contrasting results in the competition. While Bengaluru have notched up a number of victories that see them occupy the second spot with 22 points, Mumbai’s fortunes have taken a nosedive, placing them at the bottom of the table with 12 points. With the league kicking-off its home stretch here, any slip-up could cause a huge dent in the targets the teams have set for the season.

Bengaluru have had their share of troubles against Mumbai in the past but until their last tie in Mumbai, the Ashley Westwood-side has always been able to salvage a point in every game. And if the last game is to be discounted, where Bengaluru lost the plot due to some scrappy goalkeeping from Lalthuammawia Ralte, Saturday’s tie promises to be a humdinger.

Bengaluru are expected to welcome back to the playing set-up their midfield master Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who has missed close to two months’ action to a fracture of his fibula. While skipper Sunil Chhetri remains a doubtful starter owing to his groin trouble, it would be interesting to see if Westwood goes on to play a full-strength side given that Bengaluru have six competitive games lined up for the month after the Mumbai tie.

Westwood, however, remained confident of his side’s fortunes. “To be honest we are not looking that far ahead,” said the Bengaluru coach speaking at the pre-match press conference. “Mumbai are difficult. DSK (Shivajians) have improved a lot. Obviously Mohun Bagan and Shillong (Lajong) away. What we can do is win our next game and see what happens elsewhere. It’s getting tight. Towards the end of the Cups we have always been in and around it. As long as we can keep the season alive, we will be happy with that,” he added.

While Bengaluru will be keen to get their combination right, Mumbai have a problem of plenty, given that their injured men are recovered and are raring to go.

The Mumbaikars, who missed the services of their skipper Taisuke Matsugae in the past few outings, are expected to see the Japanese midfielder take the centre stage along with an experienced Arata Izumi. A lot will also depend on how much striker Sushil Singh can trouble the Bengaluru defence.

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