With its eyes firmly set on the must-win AFC Cup playoff second-leg tie against Maziya S&RC the coming Wednesday and the first-leg of the ISL playoff the subsequent Sunday, third-placed Bengaluru FC will look to give key players a rest when it meets ATK at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.
BFC coach Carles Cuadrat confirmed that as many as seven players will be handed their first starts of the season. “As a coach I want to win and I have a lot of respect for ATK,” he said on Friday. “But looking at how important the games on February 26, March 1 and March 7 are.. like three finals….I’ll rotate.”
“We could afford to get zero points against Kerala and zero points against ATK and still qualify. That says a lot about our consistency. We are the only team to have a 100% record of reaching playoffs -- three seasons, three playoffs.”
However, leading into the contest, the club has only one win from four games across competitions, including defeats in the last two matches. But Cuadrat pointed to the business end of the previous season where it had a similar record but went on to win the ISL.
“We have to see what’s best for the team. Last season just before the finals we got only one victory in six games. If we lose to ATK…it can happen because a lot of young players are going to play… it’s going to be one victory in five games. It’s still better [than last year]. So we can relax a bit in our mind.”
It remains to be seen if ATK, which has sewed up second position, will also bench its stars. It is coming off a 3-1 defeat to Chennaiyin FC on home soil despite starting with the likes of Roy Krishna (14 goals) and Edu Garcia. Experienced centre-back Anas Edathodika has been ruled out for six months following an injury.