The Blues are the only team to have qualified for the playoffs thus far and they are unbeaten in their last six matches.
Jamshedpur FC take on Bengaluru FC at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 on Sunday. Jamshedpur are the strongest team in the league defensively having conceded the least goals (13) and kept the maximum number of clean sheets (7). They are also unbeaten in their last four matches and know that a win will take them within touching distance of sealing a playoff spot.
Speaking to the media at the pre-match press conference was their head coach Steve Coppell, who insisted that Bengaluru are the best team in the league, but Jamshedpur are up for the challenge of facing them. “We are playing against the best team in the league; the league table and their performance show that,” he remarked. “I have great respect for that team and the way they play. It’s successful and effective, so we have to be competitive ourselves to win the game, and we have to match them in every department. It’s a big challenge for us. All to play for, and we are looking forward to a big challenge.”
Regarding his team’s recent performances, Coppell added, “We have done reasonably well recently. Since the halfway point in the league, we have had some good results. We clawed our way to the top four, and we would like stay there. We want to win this game if we can.”
The 62-year-old also mentioned the improvements his team has made since the start of the season. “We were picking up draws, so the essence is that we just converted a few of those draws into victories,” Coppell inferred. “There is no doubt that Wellington (Priori) coming in has given us an injection and has given everybody else a little punch as well. There have been some minor improvements in many areas, and that is the main reason we got into the position we are in.”
The Englishman went on to shed light on the strategy with which his team would approach their encounter against the Blues. “We don’t change strategies – we play the way we play,” Coppell revealed. “We aren’t going to change anything. We try to defend when we don’t have the ball, and attack as much as we can with it. At this stage of the season, many times it’s not about how you play, but just about the results.”
Before wrapping up, the former Manchester United winger delivered some good news regarding injuries. “Anas (Edathodika) and (Sameehg) Doutie are both fit, so they should be available,” said Coppell. “Anas has had a hamstring problem, and so he has been training and is careful at the moment.”
Bengaluru will now aim to cement a top-place finish and addressing the media at the pre-match press conference was their head coach Albert Roca.
The Spaniard was wary of Jamshedpur’s threat and highlighted the same. “We’re playing against one of the best teams in the ISL,” Roca stated. “In the second part of the season, Jamshedpur have shown that they are really, really strong and yes, I’m sure it’s not going to be easy.”
The Spaniard then mentioned what he is aiming for in Bengaluru’s next few matches in the league. “For me, it is always to get better and better,” he said. “Every game is different, we have to pay attention and be in good shape. We have to now try to get better in the next two games because now we’re in the play-off, and we just have to be prepared for the difficult moment. Now it’s time to try to be even better, just to be ready and try to have more options.”
The 55-year-old went on to laud the domestic players in his squad. “Well, I think for sure I’m confident with these (Indian) players,” remarked Roca. “We have to take care of them. But they are appearing there and they have a lot of quality.”
Defender Rahul Bheke extended his contract till 2021 recently and Roca was also quick to praise his performances. “We are very happy with his performance,” he said. “He has been in the line-up most of the games. In the past also, he’s been an outstanding player. He’s a player who deserves to be in the national team. So I am happy for him and happy for the team.”