Indian Super League (ISL) sides Kerala Blasters will take to the field against Bengaluru in what is set to be a feisty South Indian Derby clash at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.
The two sides have a burgeoning rivalry and three points will be highly coveted despite the disparity in their positions on the table. Bengaluru have all but sealed their spot in the playoffs with 30 points from 13 games while Kerala Blasters are out of the run with just 10 points from 14 games.
“The reason we are on top of the league is the work that we have put in as a whole. We take risks, but we know that we are taking risks. The final outcome is that we are on top of the league,” Bengaluru head coach Carles Cuadrat said on the eve of the clash.
Bengaluru FC will get a boost with likely return of Miku, and the new signing midfielder cum winger Luisma Villa will add more versatility to their attack.
However, the leaders do have concern over captain Sunil Chhetri’s long dry run. Chhetri hasn’t found the back of net in the last 600 plus minutes on the field.
Cuadrat is likely to prefer Harmanjot Khabra at the full-back position over Rino Anto after the latter failed to impress against NorthEast United. While Nishu Kumar has begun training with the first team, it is unlikely that he would be handed a start.
“I feel the rivalry is great and the atmosphere in Kerala was really nice. Their supporters were really vocal during the game and even though they lost, after the game they gave us a good reception,” Cudrat said.
The Blasters would like to forget this season as they have gone winless in 13 matches.
In January, David James was replaced by Nelo Vingada as the team’s head coach but the Portuguese tactician has not fared that well either, succumbing to a draw and a loss in his first two games in charge.
Kerala Blasters have been wasteful in converting chances this season. Of the 139 chances created by Kerala this season, just 13 have been converted into goals. They also have the second worst defensive record with 23 goals leaked in.
The lack of imagination and guile is something they need to rectify if the ‘men in yellow’ are to breach a solid Bengaluru backline.
In defence, there is concern over Anas Edathodika’s fitness and Sandesh Jhingan will need to marshall his troops well if Kerala are to notch their first ever win over Bengaluru FC.
Full-back Lalruatthara will be forced to sit out the game due to a red card against Delhi Dynamos.
“I only look at the next match. The next match is always the most important match. The past is done. I need to see what’s wrong and try to get better in the next match. I hope we can go up by one or two positions. Now we need to look at recovering the confidence,” Kerala Blasters head coach Nelo Vingada said before the game.
“With these players, we need to perform better. I need to check what’s wrong and get the best out of them,” he said.
Kerala might have only pride to play for but the prospect of getting the better of a rival should be enough motivation for them. For Bengaluru, it will be about consolidating their supremacy atop the table.