After losing in the first-leg of the semifinals, finalists of previous year’s campaign Bengaluru will host NorthEast United in the decisive second leg in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Benguluru.
In what was a game of two halves at Guwahati in the first leg, Carles Cuadrat and his men were handed a 1-2 loss by the Highlanders. The defeat meant the Blue’s poor run of late has continued with their last five fixtures yielding just the single victory and three defeats. A draw now won’t do.
“We’re ready for a big game. We’re in a good mood and we have the feeling that here in Kanteerava in front of supporters, we can give them one of the nights that we will remember through the years,” said Cuadrat.
Bengaluru will be buoyed by the crucial away goal scored by Xisco Hernandez at Guwahati as they look to enter the final for a second year in a row. The away goal means a solitary goal victory should be fine for the Super Cup champions. Anything less will see the favourites crash out.
The Bengaluru coach will look towards Miku and Sunil Chhetri to step up at home as the Blues look to overturn a one-goal deficit.
For NorthEast United, coach Eelco Schattorie will need to stretch his resources to the hilt after a fine victory that came at a cost. Having made it to the play-offs for the first time, NorthEast will have to make do without services of their star forward Bartholomew Ogbeche in Bengaluru.
The Nigerian forward picked up a hamstring injury in the first-leg and he will be missed by the visitors on Sunday. The visitors are also sweating on the fitness of their midfielder Rowllin Borges who was replaced in the second-half at Guwahati due to an injury.
With Ogbeche out, NorthEast will look towards Federico Gallego for inspiration with the industrious Uruguayan playmaker being one of the driving forces behind the side’s march to the play-offs. Gallego’s partnership with compatriot Juan Mascia up top will be crucial to the visitors’ chances with the latter likely to start in Ogbeche’s absence after his late winner from the penalty spot in Guwahati.
“I know exactly how Bengaluru FC play and they know how we play. In the last game, we dominated the first half. We lost two key players. Second half was way more difficult. But it had to with the changes we did in the team. But coming here we know this is a game that is all or nothing. We will be trying to reach the final,” said Schattorie.
Both coaches know this is the decisive clash. Both will be without their deputies after they were suspended for their role in the fracas that followed the first-leg clash at Guwahati. Both know there is just too much at stake now.