Bengaluru FC’s quest for a spot in the Super Cup semifinal reaches a crucial juncture, when the Blues face Kerala Blasters in its final Group A encounter at the EMS Corporation Stadium, in Kozhikode, on Sunday.
Both the teams will be facing each other for the first time after the controversial Indian Super League (ISL) playoff tie in March which ended with Blasters walking off the field in a forfiet following a Sunil Chhetri free-kick.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) Disciplinary Committee issued a fine on the club of Rs 4 crore, while head coach Ivan Vukomanovic was handed a fine of Rs 4 Lakh fine and a 10-game ban.
The clash, which will be played simultaneously with the other Group A match between RoundGlass Punjab and Sreenidi Deccan, pits a three-way battle between the Blues, KBFC and Sreenidi that will determine which side makes it through to the semifinals.
“It was nice to get the win and the clean sheet in the last game. But the focus firmly remains on what we need to do to win the next game. The significance of the game on Sunday makes it a massive game for us,” said Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson, ahead of Sunday’s encounter.
The two sides come into Sunday’s game on the back of contrasting results. Bengaluru posted its first win of the tournament with a 2-0 win against RoundGlass Punjab, whereas the KBFC lost to Deccan by the same scoreline.
Both sides have players who are running the risk of suspensions, with Jeakson Singh, Ayush Adhikari and striker Dimitrios Diamantakos all on yellow cards for the Blasters, while Rohit Kumar, Parag Shrivas and Sandesh Jhingan picked up cautions in the previous game.
“Whenever you play Kerala Blasters, you know that it’s a big game, for the bragging rights on the pitch and off it as well. It has all the ingredients of a fantastic game, with the spice of the rivalry, and I expect a good crowd in the stadium which we are all looking forward to,” added Grayson.
The onus of leading KBFC past the Blues will fall on Diamantakos, who scored 10 goals in 21 ISL games and has captained the side in the absence of Uruguayan midfielder Adrian Luna. For the Blues, Javi Hernandez will once again be a key part of proceedings, with the Spaniard scoring twice in the tournament so far, the highest in the Blues’ camp.
“You can only control what you do, and we can’t let what happens in the other game affect us. We have to make sure that we are ruthless in both boxes and try to limit the Blasters to as few opportunities as possible,” said Grayson, laying down the marker for his side ahead of the big game.
Kick-off between the two teams is scheduled for 8:30 PM on Sunday.
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