Chennaiyin FC enters busy stretch with clash against Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC will be playing its second match in four days against Chennaiyin FC in a top of the table clash and coach Albert Roca clearly wasn't happy.

BFC head coach Albert Roca expressed his displeasure at the scheduling of ISL matches.   -  Special Arrangement

Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca clearly isn't happy about the scheduling of matches in the Indian Super League.

After a hard-fought 2-0 win over ATK in Kolkata on Saturday, the Bengaluru FC team touched down in Chennai the next day and will be playing a top of the table clash against Chennaiyin FC here on Tuesday. That's two matches in four days with play-offs within touching distance!

"It's not the best way to prepare against Chennaiyin. You need at least four days to prepare for a match. It's not just a case for my team but for the rest of the league as well. But we need to accept this since it was impossible to find an alternative date for this fixture," Roca explained at the pre-match press conference on Monday.

A packed ISL schedule meant Roca ended up fielding a second-string side in its AFC Cup play-offs against Bhutanese side Transport United FC last week.  Miku, who was left out of the squad for the preliminary stage of the Cup competition, returned to the line-up to secure the three points against ATK and consolidate BFC's position at the top of the table.

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Roca played down the importance of the defeat it suffered at the hands of Chennaiyin earlier in the season. "I don't think it will play on our mind. Losing to Chennaiyin FC wasn't disastrous. Obviously, we want to win all games. On Tuesday, we need to be brave and try and get all three points," said the Spaniard.

 

Crucial phase

Chennaiyin has had 11 days to recover after its 2-1 win over ATK. Starting from Tuesday's clash, the side will embark on a run of five matches in 17 days. "For me, the season starts on Tuesday. This is when you find how good you are. Everything has just been about jostling for positions. It just like a practice lap in Formula 1. We are second in the grid and the race actually starts against Bengaluru. We have five games in 17 days that will determine if we make it to the play-off," said Chennaiyin coach John Gregory.

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Having managed English side Aston Villa in the past, Gregory is not new to facing the rigours of a packed schedule. He, however, felt Bengaluru could benefit from playing two matches in quick succession.

"There is a misconception about it. It's great to play every three or four days. We lost to NorthEast United but within the next few days, we got a chance to put that right against ATK in Kolkata. The win in Kolkata kept us second in the league. So with Bengaluru, they have had positive results so far even with their schedule. I am sure they will feel the same way," the Englishman pointed out.

Injury worries

Gregory was pleased that his side doesn't overburden its striker Jeje Lalpekhlua with the goal-scoring duties. While CFC has 10 different goal-scorers, the bulk of the scoring has come from the boots of front-men Miku and Sunil Chhetri for its southern rival. "It doesn’t matter who gets the goals but I like it when the strikers score goals," said Roca.

Chennaiyin will have a fully-fit squad going into the fixture, but Bengaluru will be without defender Rahul Bheke, who picked up a red card against ATK. While forward Braulio Nobrego remains a long-term casualty for the season, first-choice right-back Harmanjot Khabra is expected to return to the starting XI from suspension.

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