Time to salvage pride
The champions have got only themselves to blame for their wretched run after failing the seize the initiative in many matches. All this will have to change quickly if Bengaluru are to salvage something when they take on Mohun Bagan on Saturday.
Bengaluru’s journey has been very uncharacteristic so far. Three losses, five draws and just a win in the last nine games see them placed fifth on the league table with 17 points, a staggering 12 points adrift of the table-toppers — the surprise pack of the season — Aizawl FC (29).
So with just six games to go, though the dreams of retaining title could be far-fetched, the city side will want to make the best use of their tie against Bagan as they prepare to begin the campaign in the AFC Cup against the same opponents next week.
“Yes, we’re looking at tomorrow’s game first. We want to win the three points and give our supporters the joy that they deserve,” said Roca on the eve of the tie.
“We will be aggressive, no doubt in that. Probably take our game a level higher. We’ve the AFC Cup and then the Federation Cup too. We will not surrender and fight till the very end.”
The calculated approach could also reflect in the players he lines up against Bagan.
Full-back Rino Anto trained with the side on Friday and it would be interesting to see if the Spaniard chooses to go with Anto or sticks to Sandesh Jhingan on the right. Though the coach didn’t divulge much about his team selection, he will have to rotate his players with the team being involved in four games in 10 days.
On the other hand, Bagan cannot afford to take this tie lightly. Placed third on the table with 22 points from 11 games — two less than the table-toppers — the Mariners have a realistic chance of winning the title. Their head coach Sanjoy Sen was quick in pointing out the same. “For us, the I-League is the priority,” he said.
Goalkeeper Debjit Majumder, Pronay Halder, Kean Lewis and Raju Gaikwad have not travelled owing to injuries, but the ones who are here are more than capable of challenging Bengaluru.
Over the years, this tie has generated a lot of fireworks and drama. Be it the late equaliser two years ago that won Bagan the title, or Bengaluru’s 2-0 win in Kolkata in 2014. So if the story plays out as per the script, then we’re in for a evening of good football.
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