BFC, Chennai renew rivalry

Bengaluru FC players share a light moment during a training session on the eve of their match against Chennaiyin FC in Bengaluru on Saturday. BFC MEDIA

The games between Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC hold a certain significance in the Indian Super League.

It was Chennaiyin, who had dashed BFC’s dream of capturing the title in their debut season (2017-18). Having finished the league stage on top, the cards were stacked heavily in favour of the Blues in the final but the two-time ISL champions had different plans. The Supermachans rallied from a goal down to beat BFC 3-2 and leave the home fans in tatters.

It was the beginning of a rivalry that has grown only bigger, and even bitter on occasion, over a period of time with fans from both sides indulging in banter and trolling on social media.

Last season things went haywire for Chennaiyin as they finished at the bottom of the heap while BFC remained on track and won the title.

Over the years, the two sides have met each other five times, with Chennaiyin (three wins) holding a slight (3-2) advantage over BFC. It was, however, the Blues who took the honours in their last meeting.

On Sunday, BFC and Chennaiyin, still without a win and struggling at the bottom half of the table, will renew their rivalry at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here.

BFC, evidently still coping with the departure of the influential Miku, have struggled for goals, having found the net just once in three games.

Newcomer Manuel Onwu has the backing of coach Carles Cuadrat but the striker is having a hard time in front of the goal. So far, the 31-year-old has attempted just four shots and has had 54 touches.

Cuadrat, however, believes it’s just a matter of time before BFC finds a solution to this problem upfront. “This is how it works in football sometimes,” said Cuadrat at the pre-match press conference here on Saturday.

“We have been playing well, but have only one goal to show for it. In the game against Jamshedpur, Sunil, Juanan, Raphael, Manu, Ashique and Khabra – all had chances to score. It shows that we are a team that possesses a threat from all over the pitch, and that is encouraging. Our performances have been consistently good.”

The team’s defence, though, has been rock-solid even without Albert Serran due to a muscle injury.

The BFC coach is expecting a tough game against the bottom-placed Chennaiyin. “We beat them 1-0 in the same fixture last season, but it was a very tough game. It needed the supporters in the stands to get us over the line, and I hope they do the same on Sunday,” the Spaniard said.

Meanwhile, Chenniyin coach John Gregory, also hoping for a turnaround, said the results don’t reflect the fair picture of their performance. “We actually played very well, especially in the last two home matches we had 40 shots in two games, 20 in each game, and we know that we should have scored. We should have really got six points in those two games. Ultimately, we can really play fantastically week after week but winning is the most important thing and we haven’t got three points as yet,” Gregory said.

“We would like our first victory of the season and there is no better place than to get it here (Bengaluru). It’s a little bit more than just a football match. So at 10:00 pm, when I sit to watch Liverpool vs Manchester City I hope to be there with a bottle of beer and three points,” said the Chennai coach.

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