Marco Pezzaiuoli and his Bengaluru FC side will be keen to stretch their winning run as they take on League-leaders Hyderabad FC at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolim, on Friday. The Blues find themselves three points adrift of the top spot, ahead of a result that could prove crucial in their charge for a position in the playoffs.
While Bengaluru’s most recent result was a 3-1 win over Jamshedpur FC last week, Hyderabad’s juggernaut came to a halt when their eight-game unbeaten streak ended at the hands of ATK Mohun Bagan on Tuesday. Pezzaiuoli said that while the visitors’ loss gave them talking points, it would mean little in the grand scheme of things.
“We’re focusing on ourselves, because we are now unbeaten in nine games and are in a better condition after picking up ten points from the last 12. Hyderabad are a very good team in transition. They have fast players in offensive areas, and also have the League’s top-scorer in Ogbeche as the man in the box. We will have to be very sharp. However, they also have weaknesses that we need to capitalise on, without making any mistakes of our own,” said Pezzaiuoli.
An early, deflected strike from the Nigerian striker proved the difference when Bengaluru went down 1-0 to Manolo Marquez’s side in the reverse of tonight’s fixture, which was also the Nizams’ first-ever win over the Blues. Pezzaiuoli recalled that encounter, and said the Blues will have to replicate their second half performance if they are to take anything away on Friday night.
“We saw that Hyderabad FC had two different halves in their last game against ATK Mohun Bagan. They pressed higher in the second half, which exposed them at the back. We don’t change our style, as we haven’t through the season. We need to be active against the ball, and not let them play their football. This is something we didn’t do in the first half against Hyderabad last time out, and corrected in the second half,” said Pezzaiuoli.
The visitors will be without suspended right-back Ashish Rai, while the Blues will continue to miss the services of Ashique Kuruniyan, as he continues his recovery from a muscle injury. Midfielder Rohit Kumar too looks unlikely to feature after picking up an injury in the win over Jamshedpur. While Pezzaiuoli confirmed that Cameroonian defender Yaya Banana had joined the squad, the Blues’ boss also stated that several of his players would miss out due to lack of match fitness.
“Yaya has joined the squad and has trained a couple of times, but it is not easy to get back to playing games after quarantine. We need to manage our players well to avoid muscle injuries. Ashique is working with the team now, but he’s a long way away from a return to the pitch. We also have some players who aren’t match fit because of the long quarantine, and will not be available to play,” said Pezzaiuoli.
Kick-off between the Blues and Hyderabad FC is scheduled to take place at 7.30 pm and will be telecast live on the STAR Sports Network, Disney+Hotstar and JioTV.