Marco Pezzaiuoli said his side – although swimming against the tide – would invest all it had in the next three games, starting with the one against Odisha FC, at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolim, on Monday. The Blues suffered a dent in their bid to making the play-offs with a 2-1 defeat to NorthEast United, on Friday, but the Bengaluru coach put aside the mathematics and insisted the focus would be on bettering their performance.
“What’s clear is that we need to take a step up against Odisha. In the game against Northeast, we were good in phases in both halves, but we lost focus and control. On Monday, we will need ninety minutes of all of our good attributes. We need to dictate all aspects of the game and dominate Odisha. It’s a good thing that this game comes soon after a defeat, because it gives us the chance to improve on areas where we lacked,” said Pezzaiuoli.
Odisha are in seventh position on the table, and just a point adrift of Bengaluru. A string of poor results saw them replace manager Kiko Ramirez with fellow Spaniard Kino Garcia at the halfway stage of the season. And Pezzaiuoli believes Odisha are a much improved team from the one that beat Bengaluru 3-1 early in the season. “Odisha are a team that attack very well on the counter, and that is something we will need to be cautious of. They are a different team under the new manager, and have some quality players in attack. If we give them space, they will make the most of it. The first time we played them this season, I felt we dominated the game and could have put it to bed on more than a few occasions. But we lost our way in the second half and had to leave with no points.”
Though the task seems difficult, Bengaluru aren’t out of the race for a spot in the top four. But Pezzaiuoli said he would rather focus solely on the game against Odisha. “In football it is normal to not have all things in your control. So we’re not going to focus on things we can’t effect. Instead, we’re determined to bring fresh energy to the pitch against Odisha.”
Bengaluru will be missing key personnel in goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (illness) and Suresh Wangjam (ankle), while Ashique Kuruniyan, Jayesh Rane and Rohit Kumar continue to recover from injuries.“ Gurpreet has had a fever through the week, because of which he missed the game against NorthEast United. It isn’t COVID, and we’re having to conduct a few tests to determine the reason for his illness. By the looks of things, he will miss a couple of games. As for Suresh, he picked up an injury late in the game on Friday and looks doubtful to play any part in the remainder of the season,” said Pezzaiuoli who felt he still had enough options within his squad to choose from, for the game.
Pezzaiuoli though, welcomes back Naorem Roshan, who missed out on the game against NorthEast with a suspension. The young wing-back – with six assists and a goal to his name – has been in sublime form this season. With Kuruniyan injured, and Roshan suspended, Pezzaiuoli had to use Parag Shrivas first, and then Wungngayam Muirang – both naturally central defenders – in the left-back position.
With just a two-day gap between games, Pezzaiuoli also hinted at the need for fresh legs and energy, which could see a team sheet with a few tweaks.