High-flying Bengaluru FC will look to extend its run of five straight wins in the ISL when it meets FC Pune City here on Friday. Pune has won only one of its nine games, and has the worst defensive record in the league (19 goals conceded), but BFC cannot relax.
Carles Cuadrat's men very nearly slipped up against another struggling side at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Monday. It required a late, deflected goal, and the largesse of the Delhi Dynamos attackers, for BFC to emerge from the game with all three points .
The home side will be without Miku, who is expected to return to action only in the new year. The star striker is traveling to Spain for treatment on his injured ankle and will begin his rehabilitation there.
"Miku is the kind of player who brings something special to the team," Cuadrat admitted. "With him we play one kind of football and without him another. But it's an opportunity for other players like Chencho Gyeltshen and Semboi Haokip to step up."
The Pune head coach, Pradhyum Reddy, is no stranger to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. He was assistant to Ashley Westwood when BFC started life as a football club in the I-League in 2013. Reddy was under no illusions about the task at hand. "They played the last two games without Miku and won. I wouldn't call them weakened.
Collectively they're very strong," he said.
It felt like Pune had turned a corner when it claimed its first win of the season last week, but defeat to NorthEast United at home has dampened the mood again. "Beating BFC would be a nice feather in our cap," Reddy said.
In the absence of Brazilian Diego Carlos, who has suffered a hamstring injury, much will depend on Iain Hume. BFC will be hoping centre-half Albert Serran recovers in time from an
adductor injury while Dimas Delgado returns from suspension. Victory will give the side a five-point lead at the top of the table; it is a state of things Cuadrat will be delighted with.