The Spaniard is wary of the threat that FC Goa will pose despite his side’s good record against them.
Accompanied by warm seas and the laid back Goan lifestyle, Bengaluru FC kick-off their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign in the toughest possible fashion against FC Goa, who technically will have the ‘home’ advantage throughout the competition. The Southerners like the other teams in the ISL have had to adapt to the new conditions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, something that Bengaluru FC coach Carles Cuadrat has acknowledged.
“Fans have to expect a better performance from the teams probably only after month. All squads will try to be competitive from the first day, but circumstances are different. We are happy that all Indian players are available since 1st of October and so they have 7-8 weeks of pre-season. For all clubs, they have had issues with the foreign players and we will see better football in a few weeks for sure.”
FC Goa along with Bengaluru have been among the consistent and expansive sides in the ISL. Therefore, expectations when the two sides meet will no doubt be leaning towards an entertaining encounter. However, the Blues’ boss sees it differently.
“You could see a different game altogether. Like in the game yesterday, (KBFC and ATK Mohun Bagan), the intensity that we saw will not be like the one we saw last January. The humidity, the conditions on working in the same stadium in Goa due to COVID, all of us are facing the same conditions,” Carles Cuadrat continued. “Goa is a complete squad with a new coach, with new ideas and new foreign players as well. They lost some key players like Mandar (Rao Dessai). The challenge for Juan Ferrando is to prepare them in the best way possible. I am sure they have studied our team and they will try to give another kind of intention to the game as compared to the previous seasons. We have to be prepared for anything.”
Bengaluru FC unlike their usual selves struggled to find the net in the previous campaign of the ISL and they have signed players like Cleiton Silva and Kristian Opseth to complement talisman Sunil Chhetri in the attacking department. The 52-year-old made no bones about his dissatisfaction at his side’s lack of clinical finishing last season.
“We were very competitive last year, but it was not good enough. We were good in the defensive aspects in that we got many clean-sheets and conceded the least number of goals. We didn’t score that many goals, but the statistics showed that we were the team that created the most number of chances. But, it is about scoring goals and not creating chances. We have been working on that with the scouting and tactical sessions to try to be more prolific. It is about being clinical in some moments of the game. Like yesterday, Kerala had two chances of being in front, but they did not get the goal and ATKMB were more clinical. Most times football is about 1-0, 2-1 and small scorelines. Scoring goals is not a little detail, but I feel the most important part of football,” said the Spaniard.
Bengaluru have always had a good record with FC Goa, but their opponents have parted ways with the hugely popular Sergio Lobera for Juan Ferrando and brought in new players, making them a fresh challenge to negotiate.
“I don’t know Juan Ferrando personally. But usually, Spanish coaches do have a lot of focus on tactics and strategy. I am sure they will be working very hard against us. I am sure it will be a tactical game. We feel sad about last season because we had a 2-0 advantage going into the second leg and we even scored through a corner that was disallowed, but we did not do enough to reach the final. We have retained the same squad and same identity. The squad does want a sort of sporting revenge to fix that and we will try our best.”
Dimas Delgado did not play during the two friendlies which led to speculation on whether the midfield linchpin would be available for this key clash. Carles Cuadrat was however happy to announce that he had a fully fit squad to choose from and Dimas was rested keeping the opener against Goa in mind.
The team has lost some of their core players such as defensive pillar Albert Serran, Nishu Kumar and Rino Anto after they were among the meanest teams in the ISL last season. Carles Cuadrat feels that the team has adapted itself to counter these absences in formation and tactics and that the players know what is expected of them. The new additions, too, will learn what is expected of them in the defensive third of the pitch.
On how the Indian players would cope given that they have been out of action for a good 8-9 months, but have had the benefit of 7-8 weeks of pre-season, the Spaniard was happy with their performance, but erred on the side of caution given that their opener is against last season’s league leaders.