Bengaluru: In what is the first reverse fixture of the season for the Blues, Carles Cuadrat’s side take on FC Pune City at the Kanteerava Stadium, on Friday, with the intent to stretch their unbeaten start to the Indian Super League and further their lead on top of the table. Bengaluru FC, with 19 points from seven games, are two points clear of second-placed FC Goa on the standings, with Sergio Lobera’s side having played two games more.
“We are enjoying a good phase at the moment and it’s important that we keep it going. The first part of our target will be complete once we make the play-off stages, so I am not taking anything for granted until then,” he said, while addressing the media on the eve of the game.
It needed an 87th minute winner from Udanta Singh at the Fortress on Monday to beat Delhi Dynamos 1-0 and Cuadrat will be hoping that Friday’s fixture will see a marked improvement in the way his side go about things. Injuries and suspensions have thrown a spanner in the works for the Blues who have relied on resilience to pull them through.
In better news for the hosts, Dimas Delgado returns to the squad after serving a suspension and Erik Paartalu, who came on in the second half against Delhi, looks fit to start. The attack will however have their work cut out after Miku was ruled out till the end of the year owing to the ankle injury that kept him out for the last two games. “Miku will only be available in January now. He will be flying to Spain on Friday to further his treatment that requires him to take a few injections. It is an unfortunate situation given the kind of quality he brings to the team, but this is a chance for the others to stand up and be counted,” said Cuadrat.
While the midfield and attack have been operating rather seamlessly for most parts of the season, it is the Bengaluru defence that has been silently but surely making the biggest difference. The Blues back line have let in five goals in seven games, making them the side to conceded the least so far this season.
They will however face a potent threat in the Pune attack tonight. Iain Hume was handed his first start of the season in the 2-0 defeat to NorthEast United earlier this week and the highest goal scorer in the League’s history can be a handful when on song. In Brazilian Marcelinho and the impressive Ashique Kuruniyan, Pune possess the quality needed to come at Bengaluru.
However, coach Pradhyum Reddy – a former assistant coach at Bengaluru for three seasons – too has a key player missing in Brazilian Diego Carlos who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
While the Blues are on a five-game winning streak in the ISL, the Stallions come into this game with a not-so-ideal away record having last won on the road way back in February this year when they overcame Mumbai 2-0. Since then, they have drawn three times and lost four conceding 14 goals and scoring seven.
The game kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be telecast live across the STAR Sports network, HotStar, JioTV and Colors Kannada Cinema.