ISL: Goalkeeping worries for Roca as Bengaluru meets NEUFC

Bengaluru FC may have to field a relative greenhorn to guard its citadel against North East United FC on Friday.

Sunil Chhetri (centre, front) interacts with other players during a practice session in Guwahati on Thursday. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

The difficulty of finding a goalkeeper from a virtually exhausted list has bothered the Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca, who has so far overseen a positive start to the Indian Super League campaign for his side.

With three of the four available custodians in the squad ruled out owing to suspension and injuries, the Spaniard was left with a relative greenhorn to guard his citadel in an important outing against North East United FC (NEUFC) at the latter’s home - the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati - on Friday.

“I have some problems at the back with regard to goalkeepers but these are circumstances that I cannot change. I am confident in my goalkeepers and that whoever plays will do his job well,” said Roca ahead of the match.

The team’s first-choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is suspended for two matches following his red card offence in the 4-3 loss against FC Goa in the previous outing while the team’s next choice Abhra Mondal also injured his hamstring in the same match. This forced the team to turn to its initial choice Lalthuammawia Ralte. But the goalkeeper from Mizoram has not fully recovered from an ankle sprain.

Chhetri returns

This leaves Roca with only one specialist man for the job, the 23-year-old Calvin Abhishek, who is low on match experience, having hardly figured in the first team’s starting list ever since he was upgraded from the team’s Under-19 side.

On a brighter note, the visiting side will have its captain and striker, Sunil Chhetri, available for selection. The India captain has joined the team after getting married barely three days ago. “He is married and available for tomorrow. He joined the team here and he is ready. I think he is the most professional player I have seen in my career,” Roca said. Roca added that the rest of his side, fully fit, is also eager to join the battle.

For the host, it will be all about continuing with the momentum of beating Delhi Dynamos 2-0 at the latter’s home in the last outing. “We are better today than we were 15 days ago when we played Jamshedpur FC. For the last couple of weeks we worked hard to create our own identity and I feel we are a bit better now,” said Joao de Deus, NEUFC’s Portuguese coach. There are no injury problems dogging the side, the coach added.

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