The Yellow Army settled for a draw against SC East Bengal in their most recent game last week.
A high-profile clash can be expected in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Wednesday, when Kerala Blasters take on Bengaluru FC at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Goa. While the Yellow Army have won just two matches all season, the Blues haven’t registered a victory in their last five games.
While BFC have been known to be a closely-knit side in general, this team chemistry has been lacking from them this season. Although they started their campaign well, this caused them to fizzle out in their most recent matches. On the other hand, the Blasters have been looking more like a unit in the past few weeks, contrary to earlier on in the season when they were bailed out of tight situations by moments of individual brilliance.
With just two wins from 11 matches, the Blasters are at the 10th place on the ISL standings. Only Odisha FC are at a lower position and such a string of poor results was not expected of the Yellow Army prior to the start of their campaign.
Only nine more matches are remaining for Kibu Vicuna and his boys in the league stage and the playoffs spots look distant for the time being. Therefore, their objective would be to collect as many points as possible from the remaining matches in a bid to conclude their campaign at a higher position on the league table.
At the start of the season, the Blues looked all set to make it into the playoffs for yet another time, as they went on a six-match unbeaten run. However, four of those games ended as draws and they frequently showed signs of a collapse, even though they managed to end the matches on a positive note.
Their first loss of the campaign was against ATK Mohun Bagan on December 21. It has now been almost one month since then and the Karnataka side haven’t claimed three points from any match since. During this period, they also parted ways with head coach Carles Cuadrat, with assistant Naushad Moosa assuming charge in the interim.
The former ISL champions are now in seventh place, with only three points separating them from their next opponents. Currently on a five-match winless run, a victory is crucial for Sunil Chhetri and Co. to prove a point and Kerala Blasters could be the ideal team to face in such a situation.
Kibu Vicuna has a tough task ahead of him, as he has to contain an opposition that consists of Chhetri, Kristian Opseth, Erik Paartalu, Suresh Wangjam and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu among others. However, most of his players are available for selection.
Facundo Pereyra, Jessel Carneiro and Jordan Murray were lightly injured during the game against East Bengal last week. However, Khel Now understands that all three are fine and have trained ahead of the Wednesday fixture. Bakary Kone’s selection remains doubtful as he is still recovering from a calf problem. Given the importance of the match, most of Vicuna’s remaining first-choice starters can also be expected in the lineup against BFC.
For the Blues, Ashique Kuruniyan continues to stay away from the team in a bid to recover from the injury he suffered during the match against Odisha FC in December. Interestingly, that was also the last game that the team won. Dimas Delgado also left the side earlier this week, as he has returned to his home in Spain for personal reasons. On the other hand, Moosa will have a new addition to the squad in Xisco Hernandez. The ex-BFC and Odisha attacker was re-signed by the 2018-19 ISL champions earlier this month, as Deshorn Brown moved to NorthEast United.
Kerala Blasters: Albino (GK); Nishu, Sandeep, Costa, Jessel; Jeakson, Vicente; Rahul, Hooper, Pereyra; Murray.
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet (GK); Bheke, Pratik, Juanan, Shrivas; Paartalu; Khabra; Cleiton, Suresh, Chhetri; Opseth.
Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC have faced each other seven times so far. The Blues hold the upper hand against the Yellow Army when it comes to their head-to-head record, as they have lost only once while winning five out of the remaining six games.
Both teams last faced each other earlier this season. While KBFC took the lead through a quick-fire counter-attack by Rahul KP, Gary Hooper and Jordan Murray, Bengaluru soon started taking advantage of the holes in their opponents’ defence. The match eventually ended 4-2 in favour of the Karnataka side.
Man to Watch
Jordan Murray (Kerala Blasters)
Although Murray signed up for the Blasters as an understudy to the experienced Hooper, he is now the first-choice striker for the team. The 25-year-old has paid rich dividends for Kibu Vicuna, netting six times so far this season. He is currently tied at third place in the ISL Golden Boot race alongside Aridane Santana, Diego Mauricio, Roy Krishna and Adam le Fondre.
The Australian scored goals in both of B’s wins against Hyderabad FC and Jamshedpur FC. He also broke the deadloack against SCEB last week and found the net against Bengaluru as well in December. He has also created the second-most chances for his team so far this season and it would not be surprising if he gets among the goals on Wednesday as well.
Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
A beacon of hope for Bengaluru FC has to be their captain and top scorer Sunil Chhetri. Quite understandably, their club is going through a tough phase and the presence of the Indian legend could help a great deal in alleviating the tension within the squad.
The 35-year-old has found the back of the net four times so far this season, the highest among Indian players in the league. One of those goals came against the Blasters last month, when he managed to beat full-back Prasanth Karuthadathkuni to latch on to a cross from Harmanjot Khabra and score with a towering header. An early goal from Chhetri could mean a lot for BFC as they pursue their fourth win of the season on Wednesday.
Did You Know?
- With 14 goals, Kerala Blasters are at third place in the list of most goals scored by an ISL club this season. They have conceded 20 goals, which is the worst among all clubs so far this season.
- Bengaluru FC’s Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has conceded 14 goals in 11 matches this term. It took him the entirety of the campaign to allow the same number of goals in 2019-20.
- Kerala Blasters’ Facundo Pereyra has created the most goalscoring chances and made key passes in the ISL so far this season.
The match between Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC is set to be telecast live on Star Sports 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 2 SD & HD (English), Star Sports Hindi 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 3, Star Gold 2 (Hindi), Asianet Plus (Malayalam), and Star Sports regional channels (in Bangla, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi). It will also be streamed live on Disney+ Hotstar VIP and Jio TV.