Carles Cuadrat: 'BFC equipped to deal with Air Force Club’s physicality'

"It was eight years ago that I joined him in Galatasaray. When you work with somebody for that long, you really know how to help each other," says Cuadrat about his partnership with BFC coach Albert Roca. "

Carles Cuadrat Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC's assistant coach Carles Cuadra.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

It’s a truism that the identity of a club is tied to that of its manager. It could be seen in the buzz that Spaniard Albert Roca’s appointment as Bengaluru FC’s boss generated four months ago. He was from Barcelona and he promised a new style of play.

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But what often goes unsaid is the role of the coach’s assistant; by all means his Man Friday. For Roca, it’s Carles Cuadrat, a fellow Spaniard whose association with the former goes back more than twenty years when they were still in university.

“It was eight years ago that I joined him in Galatasaray,” said Cuadrat. “When you work with somebody for that long, you really know how to help each other.”

Nowhere is this chemistry more evident than in the way the two have set about re-defining the club’s style of play. Results have been strikingly immediate with BFC set to take on Iraq’s Air Force Club in the final of the AFC Cup in Doha on Saturday — a feat not achieved by any Indian club.

“We sensed that in the AFC Cup, given the strength of the opponents, for us to compete on equal terms there shouldn’t be a lot of goals,” said Cuadrat. “If you build a potent defensive team, you can get such results, like 0-0, 1-1, 1-0. We saw that against Tampines Rovers in the quarters; the one goal we scored here was enough.”

To implement such a strategy, Cuadrat said that they decided to repose faith in the team’s existing offensive players, like C.K. Vineeth, Sunil Chhetri, and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, and tweak things in defence with signings who could dictate play from the back.

Those transfers came in the form of Australian Cameron Watson, Spaniard Alvaro Rubio, both midfielders, and Juan Antonio, a centre-back also from Spain.

“With two central defenders and two central midfielders making a box of four players, with a very very clear message about the way they have to play the game, we saw that it could make us stronger,” Cuadrat explained.

A similar attention to detail was apparent when he spoke about BFC’s opponents for Saturday.

“They are a very physical team,” he said. “They get the game to a kind of one-on-one battle, with a lot of running and tackles. They play a 4-4-2 system and don’t make many variations even when losing.”

Cuadrat though said BFC was more than equipped to deal with Air Force Club’s physicality.

“The other team can be very physical. But if they have to run behind the ball and you play the ball faster, then it doesn’t become a problem. You can see football in the 90s was very physical. Then these crazy little guys like Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi brought the game to the current situation. At BFC we have some of the best players in India. We knew this team would enjoy playing with the ball.”

As evidence he pointed to the semi-final against Johor [Darul Ta’zim].

“Johor had never lost to us before but in the first 30 minutes in Malaysia they were in shock. They weren’t getting the ball. We played five in midfield and they were playing only four and they were losing the ball. So we think that in Doha, we can try and put the game in that situation.”

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