In what will be a replay of the final of Indian Super League (ISL) 2017, table-toppers Bengaluru FC will take to the field against Chennaiyin FC on Saturday.
Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru had the opportunity to secure a spot in the knockout stage in the previous match against Kerala Blasters FC but a draw put paid to their hopes.
The visiting team, boasting of the country’s star striker Sunil Chhetri in its line-up apart from the likes of Miku, will pose questions to a struggling Chennaiyin defence, which has so far conceded 25 goals, the maximum by any side this season.
While Bengaluru FC have been dominant like last season, defending champions Chennaiyin have been in woeful form, to say the least.
The Chennaiyin defence has been at sixes and sevens and lapses have been far too many. In the previous game against FC Pune City, defensive errors proved costly as the team went down despite scoring first.
The forward line has been struggling and the absence of Dhanpal Ganesh in the mid-field owing to an injury has not helped their cause. Coach John Gregory will be hoping new signing Chris Herd will step in to man the midfield and infuse a spark into the team’s play.
To compound their problems, captain Mailson Alves is suspended while Andrea Orlandi and Inigo Calderon have been released from the squad.
The introduction of Halicharan Narzary and C K Vineeth, on loan from Kerala Blasters, provided some spark in the match against Pune with the latter scoring a goal but poor defending led to a fifth consecutive defeat.
Bengaluru, on the other hand, have been consistent and suffered only one defeat so far this season. Apart from an attacking style of play, the team showed its fighting qualities in the last game, bouncing back to hold Kerala Blasters 2-2 after being down by two goals.
Under new coach Carles Cuadrat, BFC have continued their good run from last season. With 31 points from from 14 matches, Bengaluru will aim for a win and also pull ahead of the rest of the clubs.
Chhetri’s men, who finished runners-up last season, will look to finish the round-robin phase strongly and head into the play-offs with confidence.
Chennaiyin, on the other hand, will be wary of Bengaluru FC’s prowess and given the hard time the team has endured, will require a huge effort to snap the five-match losing streak.
(With PTI Inputs)