His side may have sealed a spot in the play-offs but Albert Roca said Bengaluru FC will not be taking a foot off the pedal when they host second-placed FC Pune City at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Friday. A 2-0 defeat of FC Goa at the Fortress a week ago meant the Blues became the first team to make it to the last-four of the Indian Super League but the Spanish manager said his boys value the momentum they have stitched and will only look to add to it.
“When we had won two consecutive games I asked the team if we could make it three for the first time this season. We did and then went on to get wins four and five. While qualification may not be a motivation anymore, to keep the winning run going definitely is,” said Roca.
A win over Bengaluru on Friday will take Ranko Popovic’s side through to the play-offs themselves and Roca says he has no illusions of how hard the visitors will come at the Blues. “There are three spots left and I think five teams have a chance to make it. Pune will want to kill the mathematics and combinations to qualifying and we have to be ready for that. They are on a good run themselves, winning four out of their last five games. We are in for a big test.”
The two sides met in December at the Balewadi Stadium, in Pune where Bengaluru, after falling behind to an Adil Khan goal, staged an emphatic comeback to win 3-1. “Pune had a player sent off close to the hour mark in that game after we which we gained a stronghold on things. It was a tough game for most parts and I don’t expect anything different tomorrow,” said Roca.
Given he chose to leave behind Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Dimas Delgado, Juanan Gonzalez and Lenny Rodrigues for Bengaluru’s AFC Cup play-off stage trip to the Maldives, Roca could roll out those names among others against Pune. “We arrived from what was a difficult game in trying condition in Maldives, on Wednesday. I’m happy we got the result we went for along with being able to give some of the boys rest back in Bangalore. There will be changes for sure. It’s the only way I can extract the best out of my squad.”
In Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro, Pune have got a potent threat in attack. The duo have accounted for 15 out Pune’s 27 goals this season and the Bengaluru defence will have to turn up with a tight show if they are to keep them quiet.
For the hosts, it will be Boithang Haokip and Harmanjot Khabra who are out of action having picked up knocks during the away trip to Maldives, with the rest of the squad fit and available for selection.
The game kicks off at 8 pm IST and will be telecast across the Star Sports network, HotStar and Jio TV.