CPD FOOTBALL | THE BLOG | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Bengaluru FC host FC Goa with an eye on play-offs

Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri during a training session. (Photo courtesy: Bengaluru FC)

The battle of the free-scoring sides comes to the Kanteerava Stadium when Bengaluru FC take on FC Goa in Bengaluru, on Friday. Albert Roca’s league-leaders will look to make it five wins on the bounce in what’s been an impressive charge to seal a spot in the play-off stages of the tournament. However, in Sergio Lobera’s FC Goa, the Blues face the only side that has scored more goals than the hosts and follows a similar footballing philosophy.

“I think Goa is one of the best teams in the league. Their style of play is interesting, and they like to attack. It’s a very good thing for the fans, and I expect a competitive game tomorrow,” said Roca assessing his opponents on the eve of the clash.

The game will be the Blues’ third in seven days in the Indian Super League, and with the side also involved in the continental competition, Roca wants his team to focus on the positive side of the results. “We don’t have time to prepare as we would’ve wanted since we are playing every two-to-three days. In situations like these, the mental fitness is equally important, and we need to just focus on one game at a time.”

With the league’s top scorer in Ferran Corominas (13 goals) among their ranks, the Gaurs are the league’s highest scorers and have netted 29 times, one more than the Blues. In fact, they’ve scored in all games barring the home loss against Pune. Their main-man Coro will be partnered by fellow Spaniard Manuel Lanzarote in attack, who with 8 goals, has combined for 21 of Goa’s tally and are just one ahead of Miku (11) and Chhetri’s (9) combined tally for Bengaluru.

Roca is aware of the threat his fellow countrymen pose to his side, given that duo combined for four goals in a thrilling 4-3 result in favour of Goa, when the two sides last met in November. Back then, the Blues did well to fight back from 3-1 down and level scores despite being a man less. “Corominas is a good player, one of the best in the league, so it’s important to pay attention to him. But it’s equally important to make sure that the player who is assisting him, Lanzarote, is also kept a watch on and tomorrow will be a good test for our defence.”

While at one end, the Gaurs have been scoring goals in a flurry, they have also conceded 23, second only to bottom placed Delhi, and have failed to keep a single clean sheet. This is something that Roca will want his players to exploit considering a win tomorrow could provide an added boost with the play-offs just around the corner. “We have to be sure about our performance because then it could be a matter of weeks before we play in the play-offs. Moreover, tomorrow, we are playing against Goa, who is also looking for a top four spot and might be one of the teams who can make it.”

On the team news front, the Blues welcome defender Rahul Bheke back who missed the win over Chennai with a suspension while Goan winger Mandar Rao Dessai returns to the Fortress for the first time since winning the Federation Cup with Bengaluru last summer.

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

(Bengaluru FC)