ISL: Boisterous crowd expected to light up dead rubber

Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters face-off in a match which has little relevance to the play-off scenarios. But, the fans from both the camps share an uneasy equation, which should create an electric stadium atmosphere.

Kerala Blasters

Kerala Blasters' players in training ahead of their match against Bengaluru FC on Thursday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Bengaluru FC (BFC) will look to finish its ISL league stage campaign on a high, with a good show against Kerala Blasters here on Wednesday.

BFC, sitting pretty on a 11-match unbeaten streak across competitions, has already booked a playoff spot. Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, has failed to make the cut.

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Though the fixture holds little relevance to the fortunes of the teams, the opposing fans have a lot at stake. The two camps share an uneasy equation, which should create an electric stadium atmosphere. A sold out crowd is expected to pack the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

BFC coach Albert Roca shared in the excitement, but appealed to the supporters to stay civil. “I want everyone to enjoy the show. I like the rivalry – it’s good for Indian football. Shout, scream and share your emotions, but in a good way. Support your teams, but in the right way,” Roca said.

Roca added that BFC will make every effort to entertain the fans, even if a few of their key players are missing in action. Centre-backs Juanan and John Johnson – both have received four yellow cards in this ISL season – will serve a mandatory one-match suspension, while Harmanjot Khabra is out with a rib injury.

“We’ve known for a while now that we’re through to the semifinal, but that hasn’t stopped us from putting on a show,” Roca said.

Kerala Blasters may be out of the reckoning for an ISL playoff spot, but a Super Cup berth is still up for grabs. Head coach and former England goalkeeper David James stated, “Our fans have always conducted themselves in a proper way, and I expect the same from them on Thursday.

"I hope they keep things respectful. I’ve been informed that there is a large group of Kerala Blasters fans arriving in Bengaluru to watch this match. It will be a celebration of football. BFC is a very good side, and they must be respected for their footballing capabilities. We cannot afford to get distracted by off-the-field aspects."