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Bengaluru FC wary of NorthEast resurgence

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri in training at the FSV Arena, in Bengaluru (Photo courtesy: Bengaluru FC)

Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC return to Indian Super League duties once again as they host NorthEast United FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Friday. Returning from Bhutan after playing out a goalless draw in the first of their AFC Cup Preliminary Stage games against Transport United, the Spaniard believes that the visitors’ League position is a poor reflection of the threat and quality they possess in their ranks.

„We approach every game with a certain degree of caution but not at the cost of compromising on our philosophy, and this game won’t be any different. A lot has changed for NorthEast United off the pitch, and I know they will give us a hard time tomorrow,“ said Roca on the eve of the game.

Buoyed by the appointment of Avram Grant as Head Coach until the end of the season, NorthEast hit the ground running, winning two out of three matches played with the Israeli manager at the helm and currently sit 9th on the table with 10 points. Ex-Blue Seiminlen Doungel has been the focal point of their gameplay having netted four of the five goals since.

The Blues‘ boss said he was wary of the danger posed by the Highlanders, who came out on top against third- placed Chennaiyin FC and fourth-placed FC Goa, in recent weeks. „NorthEast have been growing in confidence as the tournament has progressed and I haven’t been surprised at all. We had to grind out a win when we played them in Guwahati and that game was an indicator of how tough a side they can be.“ Roca said. Bengaluru came away 1-0 winners in the away leg of this fixture when striker Miku shot home a second-half winner.

Having traveled with a heavily-rested squad to Bhutan, Roca will turn back to the team that has started most games through the season. As many as eleven regular first-choice players stayed back in Bengaluru in a move the Spaniard said he had to make given the Blues’ hectic schedule. “We couldn’t get the job done in Bhutan but I’m happy that the boys who stayed back managed to get enough rest. The travel and conditions were hectic, and it would not have been possible for the team to take the pitch 100% against NorthEast United if everyone would have traveled.”

A win on Friday would send the Blues back to the summit of the League table, with FC Pune City having leapfrogged them following a win over Jamshedpur on Wednesday.

In team news, midfielder Edu Garcia has completely recovered from an injury that kept him on the bench against Mumbai City FC. However, Dimas Delgado is a bit of a doubt with a sore calf and Roca said he would leave the decision on including the Spaniard, late.

The game kicks off at 8 pm IST and will be telecast across the Star Sports network, HotStar and Jio TV.

(Bengaluru FC)