BFC look to arrest free fall

Bengaluru side takes on debutants Minerva

BFC look to arrest free fall
 The manner in which Bengaluru FC started their title defence, it looked the city side would be a tough nut to crack in the I-League. With three convincing wins in as many games, strikers scoring goals at will and a determined defence not letting anything through, Bengaluru were off to the best possible start.

But what transpired post that thumping win over Mumbai FC on January 18 is something that has caught many by surprise. Bengaluru, who lost just four of the 16 games in the league last season, have already suffered two defeats this season.

But for a moment of brilliance from skipper Sunil Chhetri and a debut goal by Salam Ranjan Singh, the defending champions would have again returned empty handed from their assignment against DSK Shivajians. With just 10 teams in the league, it’s a no brainier that Bengaluru will be eager to arrest this run of poor form when they take on newcomers Minerva Punjab FC on Saturday.

Worst ever placing

The champions are placed fifth on the league table — their worst ever placing — with 10 points from six games, while Minerva are ninth with five points from seven games. Though the Albert Roca-coached side looks superior on paper, the Bengaluru head coach insisted it would be stupid to take their opponents lightly.

“Football is not so easy. Circumstances change. Sometimes too quickly,” he said on the eve of the tie.

“We will keep fighting. Football is a game of emotions and we have to control that. We have to control the pressure as well. That is not easy. It’s just a question of attitude and mentality and I think we are prepared for that.”

It is no surprise that Bengaluru’s poor run has coincided with a below-par show by their defence. While Sena Ralte and Harmanjot Khabra gave a glimpse of their quality in the beginning, the full-backs have failed to match the show in the past few games.

And with centre-backs John Johnson and Juan Gonzales set to miss the Saturday encounter due to suspensions, Roca will be hoping that the talented Sandesh Jhingan and Salam step up to the task against Minerva.

The Punjab outfit come into the game with nothing to lose. Up against the champions of India, they will try to give their best knowing that even the slightest of slip-ups could cost them dear. “Bengaluru is an established team, a team made of big name players. And I see this as an opportunity to test myself against the best in India,” said Kareem Omolaja, Minerva’s captain and a key defender.
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