With hopes of qualifying for the semifinal playoffs hanging by a thread, Bengaluru FC will want nothing less than three points when it meets Odisha FC at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Monday.
The twin defeats to Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United FC have left Marco Pezzaiuoli’s men in sixth place (23 points from 17 matches), four points adrift of fourth-placed Kerala Blasters, despite having played a game more. One more loss will virtually eliminate the side from the race.
“We need to improve, that’s obvious,” said coach Pezzaiuoli. “Because if you see the last game, we played good for 20 minutes and then in the next 20, we gave the game to NEUFC. The same happened in the second half. We scored first but then conceded two goals. We need to be more dominant and press more.”
BFC will welcome left-back Roshan Naorem, who has assisted six goals this season, after a suspension, but it will miss goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu through illness and midfielder Suresh Wangjam because of ankle trouble, which is most likely to end his season. Ashique Kuruniyan and Jayesh Rane are yet to recover from injuries.
Like the 2018-19 champion, Odisha too has an outside chance of sneaking into the top-four, played as it is just one point below BFC. But it has won only one of its last six outings and will be eager for a repeat of the win it recorded against BFC earlier in the season, a convincing 3-1 triumph.
“I think they will be in the same situation as us,” said coach Kino Garcia. “We were thinking of beating Chennaiyin FC [last match], but couldn’t. I suppose they were expecting to defeat NorthEast, but they lost.”
“So, both teams want to come back. We want to make a good match. We want to secure the points. And for us, it is a big motivation to beat Bengaluru FC again in the same season.”
Odisha will be banking on striker Jonathas Cristian, who has scored in each of the last five matches.
“He’s finally settled down in the league and showing his quality,” Garcia said. “He is feeling comfortable and doing a great job.”