News Article

I-League 2017 Tactical Analysis: Bengaluru FC Vs East Bengal


Both teams are looking for a return in form at critical stage of the league season...

For Bengaluru FC this season was one of of great promise. On the back of a historic run to the AFC Cup Final much was expected of the Blues, now under the stewardship of Spaniard Albert Roca. They enjoyed a flying start with three wins from three but since then their firm has gone downhill.

Knocked out of the AFC Champions League and without a win in six league games., this is simply a must win if they still want to entertain thoughts of a title defense. On the other hand East Bengal are top of the table on goal difference but are themselves experiencing a rough patch of form.

The Red and Gold are without a win in three games and no they can't afford any more slip ups with arch-rivals Mohun Bagan level on points with a game in hand. So when these two teams meet on Saturday evening the states could not be higher. What will also be interesting to see are the lessons learned by both teams from their previous meeting earlier in the season.




How Bengaluru FC Attack
How East Bengal Defend



The Blues lineup on paper boasts of some  of the household names in Indian football. With a front 3 that has power, creativity  and pace, it would be hard for opposition defences to keep the team at bay. 

However, the Garden City club have not found ways to convert their attacking dominance. Albert Roca will keep faith in  his front 4 of CK Vineeth, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Udanta Singh and Sunil Chhetri as they look to extract revenge on an East Bengal side that kicked off the poor run of form that Bengaluru have been facing for the last month. 

Roca experimented with a system which saw Chhetri move centrally and Lyngdoh to a wider position to influence play. The tactic worked a treat as the India captain was more in the thick of things and has scored in his last 2 games for the club. 

Udanta will be a vital outlet on the right for the champions as his pace and trickery  have been an absolute delight to watch. 

His combination play with Khabra on the right flank have been influential in the Blues goals this season. Nishu Kumar or Sena Ralte have had a similar impact on  the opposing flank albeit seeing Chhetri move inside more compared to Udanta.

East Bengal has displayed one of the most scintillating defensive performances in the League this year. Gurwinder Singh has been subject to their sudden rise in performances while new signing Ivan Bukenya has proved himself to be a natural leader in the rearguard, not only defending but also scoring important goals for his club.

East Bengal back four is expected to be experimented with against Bengaluru FC with Robin Gurung, Mondal, Bukenya and Narayan Das. However, with the overlapping duties of the full backs in a classic 4-1-2-1-2, which needs the center backs to be content, will see Ivan Bukenya sitting deep with Arnab Mondal while Rowling Borges performing a single pivot role to shield the defensive line. East Bengal’s defensive success will depend on the full backs, more specifically with Narayan Das as the Blues will be searching for opportunities to exploit East Bengal’s left flank, using the pace and visionary skills of Sunil Chhetri on their right side. Nikhil Poojary will also have a gigantic task upon him, marking CK Vineeth in the wings, denying the forward to go on forward runs.

How Bengaluru FC defend
How East Bengal Attack


Defensively, the champions have looked suspect in the last 5 games. The regular centre back pairing of John Johnson and Juanan was missed in crucial games such   as the one against DSK and Minerva.    While Sandesh Jhingan and Salam    Ranjan Singh have done a fine job in covering for their absence, Johnson has been a major loss due to his ability to organize the backline. 

Bengaluru's system when they go forward leaves them open for an opposition counter attack as the full backs need to cover a lot of ground to get back to their defensive stations. The team goes into a flat 4-4-2 system to cut out spaces in midfield and ensure that there are players to deal with the wingers and overlapping full backs. 

 The Kolkata giants had impressed both pundits and fanatics alike when the season started in January. However, as the season progressed, the opponents quickly solved the equation to break the midfield deadlock of East Bengal, leaving the Red and Gold fans into awe. East Bengal has been either outsmarted or outscored in their previous three matches, unable to win none. However, tactics which enabled the Red and Golds to win against Bengaluru FC in the previous month might be the one deployed by Trevor Morgan against Albert Roca’s men on Saturday in Bengaluru.

After the 10th round been played a few days ago, it has been now evident that Trevor Morgan’s approach to the game  has nothing to do with only the attacking football. Morgan’s philosophies to the game include a vintage ‘Total Football’esque game which allows the team overflowing the space wherever the ball goes. In the past few seasons, East Bengal was seen playing five footballers in the middle of the pitch, using only one out-and-out striker in the frontlines. However, with the recent difficulties to cope with against the other teams with their previous approach, Morgan is expected to make slight changes in the tactics, however keeping the original approach intact. The full-backs will be vital in East Bengal’s attacking play against Bengaluru FC considering the Blues’ aerial might.

Narayan Das , who has been the flashpoint of creating the forward runs with his overlapping duties, will be expected to not to provide unintentional gaps in between their overlapping runs and contain threats such as CK Vineeth and Sunil Chhetri who likes to operate from the wings.

Rowlin Borges who has been subject to several criticisms following two draws and a defeat in their last three games will be expected to buckle up his performances against the defending champions by properly shielding the back four and denying Eugenson making forward runs to the East Bengal box.




Strengths –

Bengaluru FC

 The Blues strength no doubt lies in the potent front 4 that the champions possess. The team has the personnel to click into different gears during the game. Sunil Chhetri and Eugeneson Lyngdoh's link up play has faltered in the last few games but they have shown signs of a recovery. Udanta Singh's ability to make his marauding wide runs stretches the play allowing much needed space for Vineeth, Chhetri and Lyngdoh. 

East Bengal

This formation ensures teams to be deployed in a rather wide manner with two strikers as the options to cross the ball in. If a good attacking play can be established, the opponent wingers will fall victims towards the attacking flows both up and down the flanks. A standard 4-1-2-1-2 also offers to interchange the formation whenever counter attacks are launched by the opposition team.

Weaknesses –

Bengaluru FC

 The Blues were caught out by a swift counter-attack in the first leg at Kolkata. The team has shown defensive vulnerabilities in the last 5 games. While one can argue that they missed their first choice centre halves, the champions have added personnel in the squad add more depth to the team who are more than capable of doing the job. The left flank has been a source of worry for Roca despite his best attempts to reassure media and fans alike that it isn't. Nishu Kumar and Sena Ralte have not added the defensive solidity that Roca so craves. If Roca does decide to move Chhetri into a more central role, he will need to find a player who does track back to help out the left backs as Eugeneson is not a player that contributes much to the defensive side of things. 

East Bengal

Lacking a central midfielder is the biggest weakness of this particular formation who has been exploited by a number of teams in the previous games. The defensive midfielder, who is often outnumbered between two or more players in the rear end which forces the wide midfielders to track back to the middle of the park to cover the central positions. Added to the vulnerability in the middle, full backs also pose a threat to the team’s defense by pushing too far forward, enabling the opposition to catch them vulnerable on the counter attack.

Bengaluru FC Key Player: Sunil Chettri
East Bengal Key Player: Robin Singh

The captain is the focal point for this team despite the presence of Udanta, Vineeth and Eugeneson. He has been among the goals in the last 3 games including a 30-yard tracer bullet against Aizawl. Roca has given the 32-year old license to wreck havoc in a more central role as opposed to the wide forward role he played under Ashley Westwood and the early days of Roca's reign. 

The Blues and Roca will be looking for inspiration from their talisman as they search for a much needed win to bring their faltering I-League campaign back to life. 

The number nine will be the key to success for East Bengal against Bengaluru FC. A former Bengaluru player himself, Singh knows the Blues’ squad inside out which helped him score a goal against the Bengaluru-based club in the previous month. Singh is known for his positioning sense and his sudden bursts of pace to the opposition box. A clinical striker, Singh also adds bits of physicality in the forward line-up which itself is a delightful tactic against Bengaluru’s John Johnson in the back four. The former Bengaluru player has a knack for scoring important goals which will be hard to ignore for Trevor Morgan on Saturday.

Published: Fri Feb 24, 2017 09:15 PM IST


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