Roca: 'We won’t be completely dependent on Sunil'

Captain Sunil Chhetri led Bengaluru FC to a historic AFC Cup final berth by scripting an inspiring 3-1 win in the semifinals but coach Albert Roca sought to remove the perception that the team is over-reliant on the talismanic skipper.

Bengaluru FC head coach Albert Roca and captain Sunil Chhetri during a training session at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca today sought to remove the perception that the team is over-reliant on talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri but made it clear that his wards will have to play out of their skins in the final of AFC Cup if they are to win the title.

India captain Chhetri led Bengaluru FC to a historic AFC Cup final berth by scripting an inspiring 3-1 win over defending champion Johor Darul Ta’zim with his stunning double strike in Bengaluru last month. This is the first instance of an Indian club playing in the final of AFC Cup.

“We play as a team and Sunil is the captain of that team. It’s going to take everyone to chip in with their best performances if we are to give ourselves a chance in the final. Whether Sunil scores or not, he’s always working hard,” he said. “He didn’t score in the quarterfinal and the first leg of the semis but Vineeth and Eugene came up with goals. We won’t be depending on Sunil but I know he will lead the team just as he has been all these years.”

Roca is at the helm of affairs as the club chases history again.

“It sure feels nice to be part of Indian football history despite having very little time with the team. It’s also a testament to how hard the boys and the staff have worked to bring the club to this moment. But there is so much more to achieve and we cannot afford to be satisfied with this. We have one more chance to do something special and that’s what we have been focusing on.”

Bengaluru FC’s opponent in the summit showdown, Iraq’s Air Force FC, has scored 26 goals so far in the campaign.

“I’ve said more than a few times that we play to our strengths. We have got to be brave and I don’t see how going defensive translates to being brave. Yes, they are a good side that loves scoring but we back ourselves.”

Asked if has any particular plan for Hammadi Ahmed who has run riot in the AFC Cup 2016 so far, having scored 15 goals, Roca said, “I spend time with the technical staff on the opponents and we’re doing as much homework as we can. We’re definitely going into this game with a plan and can only hope that it unfolds the way we want it to. Of course, that will mean the boys do everything that is asked of them and maybe more.”

When asked how telling a blow could goalkeeper Amrinder Singh’s absence be in the final, he said, “It’s a shame that he’s missing out but we back (Lalthuammawia) Ralte equally. He’s been really professional at training and has done enough for us to believe that he will turn up with the goods on the day. All the boys are working hard at training, knocking on the door to earn a place in the starting XI and that helps.”

A handful of fans are likely to travel to Doha to cheer for the Blues.

“Our fans were amazing on the 19th against Johor and it made me really happy when I heard a few of them would be coming. It tells you a lot about the club and the love that the fans feel towards it. We hope we can make their trip a memorable one.”

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