Bengaluru FC will be hoping to get their campaign back on track with a win over Minerva Punjab. . .
Minerva Punjab FC, the Punjab-based side promoted to Indian top-tier football in this season and will be facing defending champions Bengaluru FC for the second time in their history at their home ground in Ludhiana on Sunday.
The Chandigarh-based club has shown some scintillating performances in their last couple of games, defeating the likes of Mumbai FC and Churchill Brothers and drawing against Bengaluru FC in the process. Minerva is currently occupying the sixth position in the league table and a win against the Karnataka giants will see them go past the Blues to the fifth position.
The Blues underwent a managerial change at the beginning of the season when they appointed former Barcelona assistant manager Albert Roca as the head coach of the team. Despite bearing an illustrative resume under his belts, Roca has failed to live up to the expectations as Bengaluru have won only three games in this season’s I-League while drawing four and losing another three, which puts them in the fifth place of the league standings.
The Blues come to the next round suffering a major blow against table toppers East Bengal in the previous round. As their title chances are depleted, the Blues look forward to maintain a spot in the top half of the table and a win against the league newcomers will contribute hugely for the cause.
With no injury concerns to cater to against the defending champions, Minerva Punjab is expected to field their strongest side against Bengaluru FC on Sunday. The Punjabi team currently is in some sort of purple patch and is expected to put up a fight against Bengaluru FC and considering the fact that Minerva had drawn against the defending champions in their previous fixture, which was at Bengaluru itself, will boost the team morality on Sunday.
On the other hand, the Blues are not having any injury problems either which comes as a welcome news for the Bengaluru head coach Albert Roca. However, playing in two different competitions has taken a toll on the Blues’ squad and the fatigue has been evident recently.
Head to head
These two teams have faced each other only once until today which was a 1-1 draw earlier this month.
Surinder Singh (Minerva Punjab): “We have drawn against Bengaluru FC at their fortress and tomorrow’s game is very important for us and all three points are very crucial for us.”
Speaking about Minerva’s tough schedule ahead of playing three games in six days, Surinder Singh stated that he would not rest or save players but would hit the gas right away against Bengaluru FC to upset the reigning champions.
Albert Roca (Bengaluru FC): “Tomorrow is an important game for us and we are definitely going for the win”. He also added that the ground isn’t much suited for their style of play, but surely they will adapt to the conditions.
Man to watch
Anirudh Thapa (Minerva Punjab FC)
Minerva had a busy transfer window earlier this year in which they had made a gem of a bargain when they snooped up youngster Anirudh Thapa on loan from Chennaiyin FC. A Nepali descent footballer, Thapa has since taking the opponents on behalf of the Blues alone. One of the most promising young midfielders of his generation, Thapa acts as a box-to-box midfielder, going on both forward runs as well as tracking back to defend against opponent counter attacks.
A versatile midfielder, Thapa can play anywhere in the middle of the park but likes to operate from the wings. If played accordingly, Thapa is expected to be the shinning sparkle amongst the Minerva Punjab squad.
C.K.Vineeth (Bengaluru FC)
The 28-years-old Bengaluru forward had scored the first hat trick of this season’s I-League earlier this season. However, the forward’s tactics and approach to the game had faced several questions when his performance on the pitch had taken a dip in the mid-season, but, Vineeth has again made himself a threat to reckon with for any defender and has again emerged as one of the most versatile forwards in the league.
The Kannur-born striker is going through a purple patch of his career right now and is expected to replicate his last match’s performance against Minerva Punjab FC as well.
Probable Line ups
Minerva Punjab (4-3-3)
Das, Kamalpreet, Nurain, Amobi, Loveday, Ngaihte, S.Das, Bodo, Sayed, Thapa, Singh.
Bengaluru FC (4-2-3-1)
Amrinder, Jhingan, Juanan, S.Singh, Ralte, Rodrigues, Vineeth, Watson, Lyngdoh, Udanta, Chhetri.
The game will broadcast live on Ten 2 at 04:30 pm IST. You can also follow live commentary of the game on www.khelnow.com