BFC look to dent troubled JFC's hopes

BFC look to dent troubled JFC's hopes

Jamshedpur FC players during a training session on the eve of their match against Bengaluru FC on Thursday. DH PHOTO/ BH Shivakumar

Talismanic Sunil Chhetri has kept Bengaluru FC alive in the race for the Indian Super League title this season. Off the 13 goals scored by BFC, seven have come off of the club captain's boots.

Come Thursday, the Blues will again pin their hopes on Chhetri's proficiency in front of goal as they host an injury-plagued Jamshedpur FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here.

BFC are third on the table with 19 points and victory will see them dethrone ATK as the leaders momentarily. Jamshedpur placed sixth with 13 points, look for a change in fortune after suffering two back-to-back losses against Mumbai City and Odisha FC. 

"Jamshedpur have shown this season that they can play some very good football," opined Javier Pinillos, the BFC assistant coach who will man the touchline in place of suspended head coach Carles Cuadrat, at the pre-match conference. "They have been in the top four for most of the season and we cannot be complacent against them. It's a very important game for us and it could turn out to be very tough." 

Influential forward Miku's replacement Manuel Onwu has struggled to make an impression and his prolonged battle with injuries forced Cuadrat to feature a front three comprising entirely of Indians (Chhetri, Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan) on multiple occasions without much success. 

Udanta's dip in form is another worry for the coach. The Manipuri has just one goal in 11 appearances. Against FC Goa last week, Cuadrat showed his frustration by taking the winger out at half-time. On the other side, Ashique has shown ability in flashes. So far, the Keralite, who often switches between left-back and left-wing, has just one assist and 12 attempts in nine games. 

While agreeing there is over-dependency on Chhetri, Pinilla defended the other forwards and backed them to find their touch. "Sunil is our top scorer, yes, but all the players are creating chances and getting into good goal-scoring positions. Manuel (Onwu), Udanta Singh and the others are working hard and I'm sure they will help us during the next matches and hopefully, they will score too," he said.

To ease Chhetri's burden, Cuadrat roped in forward Deshorn Brown earlier this month but the Jamaican is not available for Thursday's game. 

For all their troubles upfront, BFC do have a well-oiled midfield led by Dimas Delgado. The Spaniard, who has racked up 709 passes and three assists, will again look to provide the creative spark. At the back, Juanan and Albert Serran with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu between the sticks, will job of keeping Jamshedpur forwards silent.

Meanwhile, Jamshedpur have troubles of their own with star player Sergio Castel and experienced Piti ruled out due to injuries. Castel's absence, in particular, is a huge setback, considering the Spaniard the form was in, scoring five goals in six matches. New signing David Grande could make an appearance.

"We are still creating chances, playing good but not being able to score," offered JFC coach Antonio Iriondo. "Sergio is an important player for us and a big absence. He’s not ready to play yet. Hopefully, he will be back with us. He hasn’t played in the last five games for us now. Piti and Noe Acosta have been injured too. Noe is healthy bur Sergio and Piti are still out," he added.

BFC and Jamshedpur played out a goalless draw in their last meeting.

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