Bengaluru FC will look to get their travels in the Indian Super League off to the perfect start when they take on FC Pune City at the Balewadi Sports Complex, in Pune, on Monday. With a win and a draw from their opening two fixtures at home, Carles Cuadrat’s Blues will look to keep the pace on League leaders NorthEast United as they face the uphill challenge of playing four games away from home on the spin.
Pune City haven’t had the start to the season they would have liked having picked up one point from two games. Diego Carlos scored a late equaliser against Delhi Dynamos to rescue Pune’s opener, before Miguel Portugal’s side went down 2-0 to Mumbai City FC on Friday.
But Cuadrat said his team knows better than to let two games decide the way their opponents would turn up in what’s always been a keenly contested fixture. “Games against Pune City have always been tough and I expect nothing different this time around. I met Miguel (Portugal) during our course to renew our UEFA licenses in Madrid two weeks ago and he mentioned how pleased he was with the attacking options he has at his disposal. They will look to turn a corner against us and we need to be cautious enough,” said the Bengaluru coach on the eve of the fixture.
The last time the two sides met was in the second leg of the semifinal at the Kanteerava where a Sunil Chhetri hat-trick in a 3-1 win ended Pune City’s run in the tournament. The biggest change for Pune City since then, has been the appointment of Portugal, who previously had a stint with Delhi Dynamos. While he attempts to bring his brand of possession-based football to Pune, the Spaniard will be keen to deliver the club its first win over Bengaluru. In the four times the teams have played each other, Bengaluru has two wins while two games ended in draws.
In team news, midfielder Dimas Delgado who came on as a late substitute against Jamshedpur FC, could be in the reckoning to start after having missed the season-opener against Chennaiyin with an injury.
For Pune City, the game could mark the return of striker Marcelinho to the starting XI. The Brazilian missed out on the game with Delhi owing to a suspension and was brought on as a second half substitute against Mumbai City. He, along with Uruguayan attacker Emiliano Alfaro, formed a potent threat last season and Pune City will look for an encore from the duo.
Bengaluru squandered the chance to make it two wins in as many games when they conceded a stoppage time equaliser against Jamshedpur FC a fortnight ago and Cuadrat says his team has been working hard on smoothening the edges out. “We are a team that loves to attack and that won’t change. However, it is key that we close games out and the boys have been working hard on that aspect. Our next four games are away from home and it’s vital that we collect as many points as possible on the road,” he said.
The game kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be telecast live on the Star Sports network, HotStar and JioTV.