Kolkata: Bengaluru FC will have their task cut out against East Bengal in a must-win game when they face the Kolkata giants in a crucial Group A encounter in the Durand Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata, on Wednesday.
The Blues are currently third in the table with a solitary point from one game, but with second-placed Army Red (3 games, 2 pts) and bottom-placed Jamshedpur FC (2 games, 1 pt) already out of the equation, they are the only side with a chance alongside leaders East Bengal (2 games, 6 pts) to grab the lone semifinal spot from Group A. While Bengaluru will need to win both their games, a point from their final game against the Blues will be enough to send East Bengal through to the knockouts.
While the semifinal is the eventual target, Coach Naushad Moosa wants his boys to focus on the immediate task at hand as they must get three points from this clash to stay in contention. “The boys are well aware that if we want to stay in the competition, we have to get points off this game. The semifinal is another step away and this game will not send us through immediately. But we need to win this game first before we think about the knockouts, and doing that isn’t going to be easy. We are up against East Bengal in Kolkata, but we have prepared really hard and won’t be giving up easily. The boys know that they have to give their one hundred per cent, both physically and mentally, and fight till the last whistle.”
Bengaluru had more than a week to prepare after a 1-1 draw against Army Red on August 5 and Moosa hopes that he has been able to make most out of the situation. “The break was a little longer for us. It’s not always easy to have such a long gap, but it also gave us time to work with the team and for the boys to get acclimatized to the climate. The first match was a bit tiring, especially in the first half because of the heat and humidity. We had just 20 days of pre-season, in a vastly different climate in Bengaluru, so it was a bit of a shock on a physical level to play a high-intensity match in this humidity. This break has given us time to adapt and we’ve had good training sessions with a couple of friendly games. In the first game, we came back really well in second half, but missed quite few scoring opportunities which is a crucial aspect in cup competitions. We have been working on improving that in the past week.”
While Alejandro Menéndez’ side convincingly beat Jamshedpur 6-0 in their second game, they suffered a blip in form in the Calcutta Football League game that followed where they went down 1-0 against George Telegraph. But Moosa is aware of the scenario and expects a tough clash against the Red and Gold. “Let’s not think about their result in the CFL. They didn’t play with a full-strength squad. I am sure they wouldn’t want to take any chances against us and they will come with a full squad. Their coach had been trying out his players, so such a result doesn’t make them a bad team. Yes, they are a strong side with a massive home support, but that just motivates us to give our very best,” added Moosa.
On the team news front, the Blues will be missing services of midfielder FC Lalhmunmawia who is recovering from an ankle injury while the staff will take a late decision on first-choice custodian Aditya Patra, who has been unwell in the run up to this clash. Meanwhile, East Bengal may miss the services of influential Spaniard Jaime Colado, who was taken off injured in the game against Jamshedpur FC.
The game kicks off at 6 pm on Wednesday and will be streamed live on the AddaTimes mobile app and website.