Bengaluru FC favourites

Bengaluru FC favourites

Bengaluru FC favourites

Leaders Bengaluru FC will fancy their chances when they lock horns with FC Pune City, who will bank on the familiar home conditions in the first-leg semifinal of the Indian Super League (ISL) here on Wednesday.

BFC, who made their debut in the ISL this season after making a big mark in the I-League, have been the most impressive among the 10 teams and go into the match with their tails up against a team that have made it to the play-off for the first time in four attempts.

With both sides possessing some top class strikers and effective midfielders, apart from two Indian goalkeepers  Vishal Kaith and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who have been quietly efficient, the game promises to provide an exciting fare.

In India skipper Sunil Chhetri and Venezuelan Miku, who are fifth and second in the goal-getters' list with 10 and 14 strikes respectively,  the Blues have a potent strike force that would be hard to contain.

BFC go into the match with a slight advantage of having beaten Pune City comprehensively once, but the hosts can take comfort from the fact that when the two met in the return leg in the league phase, the match ended in a stalemate. Miku's brace and Chhetri's stoppage-time strike helped Bengaluru come from a goal  down to register a thrilling 3-1 win when they met at this venue.  

 

Bengaluru FC would feel hugely disappointed if they don't continue with their league form and not just make it to the final but also emerge champions.
 "All the records and achievements will mean little when we step on the pitch on Wednesday. This is now a new tournament and we will have to pace ourselves very differently. Yes, we take with us all the good that we have done over the last few months, but it is what we do over the next two weeks that will finally matter. The margin for error is very little and more so against a side like FC Pune City," said Roca on the eve of the game.

 

Bengaluru FC has scored 35 goals, the second highest behind FC Goa. Pune's defence hasn't really lived up to the expectations and the visitors would look to exploit it.

All that said and done, Roca maintained that they will be wary of the opposition attack. "Pune do have quite a few quality players in their team, and it was an even battle the last time we played each other in Bengaluru three weeks ago. They have lost once in their last five games, so they haven't really struggled to make the semis. They will demand a lot out of us and we will need to turn up," said Roca.

The centre-back duo of Juanan and John Johnson will make a return to the squad from suspension but Harmanjot Khabra remains on the sidelines as he continues to recover from a rib injury.   The defensive pairing must be alert and stand up to the challenge that their rivals would pose, particularly through Brazilian forward Marcelinho and Uruguayan Emiliano Alfaro. "For us, both of them are very important. Not having them is like Barcelona without Messi and Suarez," said Pune coach Ranko Popovic.

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