Super Cup 2019: Champions Bengaluru FC, Chennai City FC in quarterfinal face-off

It will be a clash of champions as I-League winner Chennai City FC takes on Indian Super League victor Bengaluru FC in the quarterfinal of the Hero Super Cup 2019 at Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium on Thursday.

Bengaluru defender Rahul Bheke, who scored the late winner in the ISL final, sounded confident about stopping Chennai City's attack.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In September last year, Bengaluru FC and Chennai City faced off against each other in two back-to-back closed-door pre-season friendlies. The Indian Super League side Bengaluru won the first game 5-0 while the I-League's Chennai City pulled one back in its favour, 2-1. There was talk surrounding the competitive nature of the line-ups in those matches and which result held more merit.

Follow the match LIVE here

Six months on, both teams are convincing winners of their respective leagues. In the first quarterfinal fixture of the Super Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Thursday, the teams can fight it out to be called the best team in the country.

RELATED| Super Cup - Bengaluru FC-Chennai City headline quarterfinal line-up

Bengaluru manager Carles Cuadrat recalled the defeat from September which made him take notice of Chennai City's fabled Spanish attacking trio — Pedro Manzi, Sandro Rodriguez and Nestor Gordillo. "I have to be honest, I saw the quality of the Spaniards and went ‘wow!’ I thought they know how to play the game and with the Indian players, they make a good team. They were the only Indian team to beat us at Kanteerava (this season). It wasn't an official game but we know the danger they pose," said Cuadrat.

Chennai City is the only team from its division left in the competition after Indian Arrows and Real Kashmir were knocked out in the round-of-16 stage. Seven other I-League clubs pulled out of the tournament owing to its differences with the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

The reigning I-League champion chose to play and outplayed FC Pune City 4-2 in the last-16 last week.

- Chennai City's attack vs Bengaluru's defence -

Striker Manzi was yet again at the heart of Chennai City's attacking prowess with a hat-trick, his fifth of the season taking his tally to 24 goals, and an assist for Rodriguez. Adding Gordillo to the fray, who was voted I-League best midfielder for the 2018-19 season, Bengaluru's defensive think tank will have its task cut out if it is to prolong its Super Cup title defence.

Bengaluru defender Rahul Bheke, who scored the late winner in the ISL final, sounded confident about stopping Chennai City's attack. "They have some quality foreigners but if we play as a team it won't be so easy for them. We will stick to our plan of how we want to play, surely we will win this game," said Bheke.

RELATED| Bheke: A spectator in season one, a champion now

To Bheke's credit, Bengaluru knows how to shut teams out; keeping seven clean sheets in 21 matches while Chennai managed it just twice. 

Bengaluru's own attacking troika of Miku (5 goals), Sunil Chhetri (9) and Udanta (5) will be a handful for Chennai City's inexperienced back four, which is still without Roberto Eslava.

Cuadrat praised both Miku and Manzi's goal-scoring threat and contributions in the build-up play. "They both have been having a wonderful season as strikers with not just goals but their overall play; making movements and creating chances for Chhetri and Udanta. Manzi is also that kind of player, who also assists others. It will be interesting how both the teams plan to stop these players," he said.

Tackling the conditions

Bhubaneswar's humid conditions remains a talking point and Thursday's match will be Bengaluru's first in the competition after it received a walkover in its round-of-16 fixture.

RELATED| East Bengal, Churchill, NEROCA could face AIFF sanctions

Chennai City boss Akbar Nawas, however, does not believe his team will have an advantage over the ISL side. "I do not think we had a good preparation. We did not train the last two days because of the conditions. It would have been better had we gone back (to Coimbatore) and trained there," said Nawas.

(The match will kick-off at 8:30 pm and will be streamed live on Hotstar.)

  Dugout videos