A win will take the Marina Machans on top of the standings.

Rejuvenated after a torrid start, Bengaluru FC will want to extend their six-match unbeaten run when they play Chennaiyin FC at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Wednesday. Marco Pezzaiuoli’s side lost four of their first six games after starting the season with a handsome win. But they have since bounced back with four draws and two wins in their next six. In contrast, Bozidar Bandovic’s side have not endured any lengthy losing streak, but have lacked consistency.

Chennaiyin FC enter this clash on the back of a 2-1 win over NorthEast United, before which they were on a two-match winless run. But five wins from 12 games have well kept them in the hunt for the playoffs. A win against Bengaluru FC will take them to the top of the standings. Chennaiyin are currently at fifth with 18 points two behind league leaders Hyderabad FC. From the same number of game, the Blues have 14 points. They would want to close the gap with the top four.

Ahead of the match coach, Marco Pezzaiuoli and Bozidar Bandovic, spoke with the media at the pre-match press conference. Here’s what they said:

Bengaluru FC coach Marco Pezzaiuoli

How challenging it is to stay in a bio-bubble?

Marco Pezzaiuoli: This season has been a challenge. But I think our mentality as a team has been really great, I think we saw that against Goa, but not only that game, but throughout the season. We pressed hard, created chances, and we have a strong character and personality. As a coach, this has been great for me because this team is hungry and the players who are not in the squad are hungry to get the points, the players who are injured, they’re hungry for points.

In the difficulty of the bubble, we’re trying to help each other in every certain situation. It’s up and down mentally, but we’re together, we’re going on the pitch, we are happy, we’re focused. I don’t know if we have 20 or 16 players available for the next game. Some of them will come out of quarantine on matchday, but what I know is that they will give their best. As a coach, I have huge respect for the players because of the way they have played and also the staff members, they’re doing a great job right now.

Expectations from Chennaiyin FC Match?

Marco Pezzaiuoli: I think they want to beat us to stay in the top four, and we want to take the next step which is to get the three points. 90 minutes will be difficult against a team who is organized in the defence, compact in the centre of the midfield, and very good in the transition. Especially in transition, they’re getting a lot of players in the offense.

They are pressing a bit higher than before and they’re switching formations. Last time they played a 3-5-2, they also play 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2. But we are prepared, and this won’t be an issue for us. They got a new striker as well, I think they have all five foreigners available to them, which I think is an advantage for them, because we don’t have all our foreigners available.

But I believe in our squad. Last game we had four Indian defenders, they performed really well, and we have enough quality players to beat Chennaiyin FC.

Thoughts on the draw against FC Goa

Marco Pezzaiuoli: Firstly, I think it was a good game. We started well, the first 30 minutes. We were not comfortable with the ball as after 30 minutes we lost the ball too easily and quickly in the centre of the midfield which allowed Goa to push up after a point in the game. In the second half, we had enough chances with Roshan [Naorem] and Sunil [Chhetri] to score goals and win the game.

We deserved to win the game as we were the better team. We played against a quality Goa team who have enough ball possession with around 500 passes in the match. I was not happy with the way we defended the set-pieces, and for me, that was the reason we dropped the two points.

How difficult it is to focus under these circumstances?

Marco Pezzaiuoli: It’s not easy but you know, we are professional football players and coaching staff, we need to put out the lights, what is right and left, and focus. We are preparing for the game, how we want to play, how to have more options for the game. The players who are in the squad know exactly what we want to do. We stick to our principles.

There can be some change in the tactics. For example, we had three days after the Goa game which means we have 12 days almost in quarantine and less days in training. Maybe we cannot go back to the intensity, maybe we drop more back and make more transition encounters because we cannot go with the same intensity we had against Goa.

Chennaiyin FC coach Bozidar Bandovic

Thoughts on Bengaluru FC?

Bozidar Bandovic: It [Bengaluru] is one of the best teams with good quality players in their squad. They are very dangerous on the offensive set-pieces. We need to defend set-pieces very well. We played a good game. Of course, there were some mistakes, even the goals weren’t good. We need to defend from the set-pieces better. There is no preparation for this game, there has been no recovery. It will be difficult but it is no excuse.

How frustrating is it to see a lack of goals?

Bozidar Bandovic: My view is that it happens many times. I have these players and we will go till the very end. We have to see to even bring in a player who can put the ball in the net. We have games every 3-4 days and you can put the player in danger of getting injured. But yes, this is one problem we have which has happened many times. I will talk to the players to bring the confidence back to take pressure off them. Small things make big difference. 

Positives from Win Against NorthEast United?

Bozidar Bandovic: First positive from the game against NorthEast United is that we had chances and secondly, we turnaround the game by scoring two goals. That was a good effort, we showed character. It was a very good game for the team and for the players as we were losing but won in the end and that’s very important for us.

Chances of qualifying for Playoffs?

Bozidar Bandovic: We haven’t had a chance to recover. Anything can happen at this moment. All teams are facing a similar problem. It will be difficult for us. We are closed in the room and anything is possible. It will go down to the last game. We know ATK Mohun Bagan have had fewer games and some have played more but anything can happen.

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