Cuadrat wary of NorthEast

Carles Cuadrat

Carles Cuadrat had a tricky task at hand when he was given the job of guiding Bengaluru FC (BFC). Three key players -- Subhasish Bose, Lenny Rodriguez and John Johnson -- who were pivotal to their success last season, had left the club. The Spaniard was also under pressure to replicate the feats of his predecessor Albert Roca.

Come March, all those worries are laid to rest as BFC are in the semifinal of the Indian Super League, with the first leg of their clash against NorthEast United scheduled for Thursday in Guwahati.

BFC were on top as the league phase ended, with 34 points from 18 matches. “To make it to the playoffs for a second successive time in what is only our second season in the ISL suggests we are doing more than just a few things right,” said Cuadrat.

That BFC was able to do it without the services of a key player like Miku, who featured in just nine games, makes the achievement all the sweeter. Cuadrat showed flexibility and worked around a number of formations to bring out the best from his players. “Every season brings with it its own challenges. The squad changes, opponents change squads, you have to factor for breaks, injuries, suspensions and so much more. This team has worked hard from the day we assembled in Spain for our pre-season and the results are showing,” the Spaniard said.

After a blistering start to the season, which saw them go on an 11-game unbeaten run, BFC’s form took a sudden dip post the international break. They registered just two wins while losing four and one ended in a draw. “It hasn’t been the best part of the season, but we have been rotating some players and preserving some of our key boys for the final stages of the competition. We’ve also had some injuries that affected us,” he said.

BFC were in a similar position last year, but despite being on top for most of the term, they lost in the final to Chennaiyin FC. Cuadrat is hoping to avoid that fate this time. “The truth is, the margin for error is very little. That’s the nature of the competition. We saw it last year,” he remarked.

Cuadrat is not taking anything for granted in the semis. “NorthEast have been a very good team this season. They are a competitive team, but so are we. In the two games that we played against them, we managed to get four points and they managed just one. This is the first time in NorthEast United’s history that they have made it to the playoffs and that should tell you how much they have improved as a team. We know what we will be up against,” he said.

The coach acknowledged that his side will miss the commanding presence of Australian midfielder Erik Paartalu, who is out for the remainder of the season due to an injury. But he has put his faith on new signing Alejandro Barrera to fill that void. “It is a massive setback for us, but one that we have to accept and adapt to. He (Barrera) comes with tremendous experience and he’s spent a week training with the team. We are sure he will help us whenever we have to call upon him,” said Cuadrat.

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Cuadrat wary of NorthEast

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