Struggling Bengaluru FC hosts Mohun Bagan

Bengaluru FC has seen its I-League title hopes extinguish little by little as it lost thrice, drew five times and won only once. As a consequence, it lies fifth in the table, a whopping 12 points adrift of leader Aizawl FC.

Mohun Bagan football team training at the Kanteerava Stadium ahead of the I-League match against Bengaluru FC.   -  K. Murali Kumar

 

The last month and a half have no doubt been stressful for Bengaluru FC. It has seen its I-League title hopes extinguish little by little as it lost thrice, drew five times and won only once. As a consequence, it lies fifth in the table, a whopping 12 points adrift of leader Aizawl FC.

The AFC Cup opener at home against Mohun Bagan next Tuesday might well help break the shackles and the monotony the league seems to have bound BFC players to. For, the continental championship is now part of the club folklore, after having reached the final last year.

But before that, in a dress-rehearsal of sorts, it will meet Bagan on Saturday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in the I-League. “I see only the first game,” insisted manager Albert Roca. “If we win this game, we will have more options for the second.”

The biggest source of consternation for the Spaniard has been BFC’s toothless attack. Only five goals have been scored in the last six games. It doesn't help either that Marjan Jugovic, the Serbian striker signed to correct the anomaly, has had an unconvincing start.

“We need to be more aggressive in the box. We are creating a lot but the most important thing is to score and we are not [scoring],” Roca said. “Marjan didn't arrive in the best shape. We would have liked to have him earlier. But we have to accept it. We have a plan to get him better. He has enough quality to play. He has scored more than 100 goals in his career. We are looking forward to him to help us in the short term.”

Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen too will have his own set of challenges. A week ago his club had its I-league destiny firmly in its own hands but the loss of five points in the last two games would have certainly led to more than a few jitters.

“I-League is the first priority,” Sen said to not much surprise. “It's not that we don't consider AFC. But if you compare, I-League is a priority. Last two matches we have dropped points. We took the lead in both, but conceded later on. So we are trying to rectify certain mistakes.”

“It's a 50-50 match. They are at home. We have had good results here. But we don't want to look at the past.”

Bagan will be without defender Prabir Das, goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and midfielder Pranoy Halder. Sen said his team doesn't depend on individuals. But one player whom he will want to find form soon is club top-scorer Darryl Duffy (six goals). The Scot will return after four goalless matches and a groin injury.