Bengaluru and Chennaiyin FC lock horns for final glory

In-form Bengaluru FC at home will be a formidable side to beat but Chennaiyin FC has the fire-power to pull off a surprise.

Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri and Chennaiyin FC's Jeje Lalpekhlua on the eve of the ISL final.   -  K. Murali Kumar

“We have respect for everything BFC have done this season, but we are Chennaiyin; we are not afraid of anybody,” was Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory's words ahead of the Indian Super League final clash against Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.

Chennaiyin comes into the final on the back of a remarkable 4-1 aggregate drubbing of FC Goa in the semifinal, while Bengaluru prevailed 3-1 (2nd leg) over FC Pune City and remains on a 10-match unbeaten streak.

However, BFC's astounding run will not deter Chennaiyin's spirits as it will take confidence from its hard-fought 2-1 win the last time the two sides clashed here. 

Read: Formation prediction & possible lineups for ISL final

“We go into the game with a lot of confidence knowing that we have won here before. Given that we are not the only team that has won here, we know that BFC aren't infallible at home,” said Gregory on the eve of the final.

Talking about the lethal attacking combination of Sunil Chhetri and Miku, who have scored 27 of the BFC's 38 goals among them, the Englishman said, “They are very similar to the Goan duo of Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote. If you can keep those two quiet, you have a chance to win.

"We kept them quiet on Tuesday night (in the return leg semifinal) and now we're here (in the final). We'll look to repeat that with Sunil and Miku in tomorrow's final,” added the former Aston Villa manager.

Chennaiyin's top-scorer Jeje Lalpekhlua, who has romped home nine goals so far, is eager to win silverware in Bengaluru again, having previously lifted it with Bengal giant Mohun Bagan in 2015. “I remember lifting the I-League trophy with Mohun Bagan after defeating Bengaluru and I hope to lift a trophy again tomorrow,” said the Mizo sharp-shooter. 

'Game of our lives'

Home side Bengaluru has had remarkable debut season that saw it top the table during the league stages and qualify for the playoffs with games to spare. Albert Roca's men have had a remarkable season so far and will look to carry the momentum into the title-clash.

Also Read: ISL Final 2018 - Odds stacked against Bengaluru FC

“We knew it would be difficult to get here. We started our preparations in August, a while before the other teams and we have prepared to succeed,” said Roca. “Tomorrow is a big game against a difficult team. They have shown a lot of talent and quality. It will be the most difficult game of the season,” said the Spaniard.

When asked about how much this match means to him and the club, captain Chhetri said, “There were a lot of talks when we joined the ISL about how we would fare. As a club which had won four trophies in four years to come to a new league, we have done well.”

“It wasn't easy but when I look back now I feel happy with what we have achieved.  I have played many important matches in my career but tomorrow's match is right up there. It is the most important game of our lives,” stressed the wily attacker.

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