BFC-Kerala Blasters face-off today in Bengaluru

BFC-Kerala Blasters face-off today in Bengaluru

Kerala Blasters FC players train on the eve of their ISL clash against Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

Coach Carles Cuadrat heads into the match against Kerala Blasters on Wednesday knowing a victory will guarantee Bengaluru FC a playoff spot in the Indian Super League.

“It is an opportunity for us to get it (playoff qualification) at home in the next game. We are not going to do them any favours,” said Cuadrat, whose BFC sit at the top of the table with 30 points from 13 games.

BFC strengthened their side last month with the addition of midfielder Luis Manuel Villa and Cuadrat was full of praise for his fellow Spaniard. “He was the best player for the kind of work that we are going to demand from him. We were losing the ball a lot in the absence of certain players. So, we have players that we can trust in that position. I feel that we have had problems in maintaining possession of the ball.

With Dimas (Delgado), Xisco (Hernandez) and Miku, we are losing the ball easily. Luisma is a player who can help us here,” he said.

However, Villa’s arrival comes after the departure of Bhutanese Chencho Gyeltshen to Neroca FC, who compete in the I-League.

The Blues will be further bolstered by the return of star forward Miku. The Venezuelan had suffered an ankle injury ahead of BFC’s clash against FC Goa on November 22 last year. Although the hosts have managed to grind out positive results in his absence, the side has lacked the killer touch in front of goal. Cuadrat was understandably delighted to have him back. “We have Miku back in the team and he’ll be in the list for tomorrow,” he said.

Kerala, meanwhile, are second from bottom, with 10 points from 14 games. Their poor run of form cost former England International David James his coaching job and his replacement Portuguese Nelo Vingada’s stint with the club has been far from convincing. In the last two games, Kerala have drawn one and lost the other to Delhi Dynamos.

With a spot for playoffs out of questions, the players are bound to be demotivated. Vingada is aware of the task at hand and wants his team to play for pride. “We are playing with the symbol of Kerala Blasters on our heart, so we have to feel pride. Money comes and goes, sometimes you can spend and sometimes you can’t. But dignity is something that can’t be spent or lost. I want to bring that strong competitive spirit,” Vingada said.

BFC, like other teams in the ISL, have been at the receiving end of some poor refereeing decisions but Cuadrat sprang to the defence of the officials. “I’ve heard things from other coaches which are not nice. Some of the things they say to referees are false. I’ve seen coaches asking for penalties when it is clearly not a penalty. I’ve seen coaches asking for offside goals to be given, but television replays show that their player was five metres offside. We (coaches) should make things easier for them,” he said.