Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC will have to be flawless one last time if they are to make their consistency through the Indian Super League count, when they come up against a formidable foe in Chennaiyin FC in the final at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Saturday. In what is a fitting match-up between the top-two finishers of the league stages, Saturday’s finale will see flair and precision come up against cohesion and strength.
“It’s going to be the toughest game of our campaign – mentally and physically. After a few hiccups early in the season, we regrouped and did really well to finish on top of the table. Chennaiyin, in finishing second, have proved why they need to be battling for the trophy. They are a very strong unit and we have to go out there with everything we have,” said Albert Roca, on the eve of the clash that’s had a lot of frenzy built around it and one that’s sold out in the stands.
Bengaluru made it to the summit clash finishing atop the League stages on a record 40 points, while becoming the first side to beating every other team at least once in the League stages. Roca’s Blues went on to record a 3-1 aggregate win over FC Pune City in the semifinals, with skipper Sunil Chhetri scoring the club’s first ever hat-trick in the competition.
Chennai, meanwhile, finished second on the table, eight points fewer than Roca’s Blues. Having scored an away goal to Goa in the first leg of the semifinal, it took a brace from Jeje and a strike from Dhanpal Ganesh in a 3-0 home win to send John Gregory’s men through to the final.
The exchanges between the two teams in the league stages ended even after Bengaluru made amends for their 2-1 defeat at home with a 3-1 win at the Nehru Stadium in February. And Roca expects nothing different on Saturday. “Those were two very hard-fought games and Saturdaywill be a third. There is a lot riding on this games for us at the club and our fantastic supporters and we need to get the job done for the both of us. I’m happy for the city that we could give them an appearance in the final. We will be giving our all to take that one final step. We’re going into the game with a 50% chance and that, for me, is a good number,” he said.
Bengaluru’s win over FC Pune City at home last weekend came at the cost of a second booking for left-back Subhasish Bose who will sit of the final – a blow that Roca hoped wouldn’t prove harsh. “He (Bose) has grown and improved with every passing game this season and it’s very sad that he won’t have a part to play on the pitch on Saturday. But I am confident of the quality we possess on this squad and it is the kind of game where people don’t need any motivation to step up,” said the Blues’ Spanish manager.
Chhetri is on hot form for the Blues, with his hat-trick against Pune propelling him to 13 goals for the campaign, the highest ever tally by an Indian, and one behind Venezuelan strike partner Miku. Chennaiyin, meanwhile, have depended on Jeje, who leads their goalscoring charts with nine goals, six more than any other player on the squad.
“No matter how this ends tomorrow, I know that this team has done an outstanding job all season and every player and member of staff should be very proud of themselves. We go into this final with courage, determination and with the hope of a little push from luck,” added Roca.