Bengaluru FC look to bounce back

Bengaluru FC players train on the eve of their clash against NorthEast United FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. BFC Media

It was not the start coach Carles Cuadrat was hoping for when the Indian Super League resumed after the winter break, with Bengaluru FC going down to Mumbai City FC on the road despite being on control for the majority of the game.

Bengaluru dominated the midfield but could not breach the stubborn Mumbai defence. On top of it, the forwards failed to capitalise on the few chances the Blues created early on. Those missed opportunities eventually came to haunt the side as Mumbai struck off a counter to snatch the top spot.

BFC skipper Sunil Chhetri, back after the AFC Asian Cup, was far from his best. Winger Udanta Singh too had a disappointing outing. Back in familiar environs of the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, BFC will get a chance to bounce back when they take on North East United here on Wednesday.

With 27 points from 12 games, the Blues are second on the table. NorthEast, having played a game more, are third with 23. Cuadrat didn’t seem too bothered by the setback in Mumbai and is looking at the bigger picture. “It’s always nice to talk about unbeaten records but we have to be realistic since we are fighting for the title,” he said. “Football is not a game that is going to give you a gift for a record. We are working to reach the playoff, and try to keep giving good performances.”

With star striker Miku still recovering, the onus will again fall on Chhetri to inspire the team against the Highlanders.

“We all saw the last game. Maybe Sunil and Udanta were not as fresh as we have seen them before,” admitted Cuadrat. At the same time, he brushed aside any concerns about their fitness. “I don’t think we have to worry about it. Most of us have had a long break but these two have been in action, but it’s quite normal.”  

One of the key factors behind BFC’s fabulous run was their ability to grind out a result even in the absence of main players. With Nishu Kumar also confirmed out due to an injury, Cuadrat is hoping for more of the same. “We have to continue with the same plan. It is the way we play football, it is why all supporters love to watch us. We are not going to change that,” the Spaniard said.

BFC had to dig deep to secure a 1-1 draw when the two sides met at Guwahati earlier this season. Cuadrat is not taking anything for granted. “They are a tough team and are having a good competition and of course they want to win and reach the playoff. They have fewer points than us, so they will try to get three points,” he said.

The Highlanders’ Nigerian forward Bartholomew Ogbeche, who was on target against Chennayin FC last week, could cause problems for the Blues’ defence. “They have too many good strikers. We have to try to control them and then to take advantage of the opportunities to win the game,” said Cuadrat.

Meanwhile, NEUFC coach Eelco Schattorie was confident of forcing a positive result. “We should have won our home game against BFC,” Schattorie said.

“Bengaluru could be a bit worried as they lost (in Mumbai) because they don’t have a striker (Miku). At the same time, they can be extremely motivated to pull themselves again. I don’t want to focus on Bengaluru, I want to focus on ourselves. We have the confidence, the players are fit. So the strategy to focus on our side of the football,” he added.

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Bengaluru FC look to bounce back

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