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Roca keen to maintain winning momentum, Popovic recognizes Bengaluru quality


The Stallions will look to see their own playoffs berth similar to their next opponents.

Bengaluru FC take on FC Pune City in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday. It will be a showdown between the top two sides in the league thus far and for the Blues – who have sealed qualification already – it will be about cementing a first-place finish in the league phase.

Bengaluru are on a superb run having won all five of their previous fixtures and will be looking to increase the gap at the top of the table to eight points when they face Pune. Addressing the media at the pre-match press conference was their head coach Albert Roca.

The Spaniard was wary of complacency since his team have already made the cut for the playoffs. “It will be important to keep on winning to keep the momentum,” Roca explained. “It is important to stay in a race and train to be even better. It is not easy mentally because when you know you have sealed qualification, you become complacent. And that is the time when the others can punish you.”

He added, “None of the other teams have qualified, so we have to try and maintain the intensity. And it is more important when you play against Pune because they are perhaps the most difficult team to play against right now.”

Venezuelan goal-machine and their top-scorer with 11 goals Miku was not even on the bench for the Blues’ last match against FC Goa. Regarding his situation, Roca said. “Miku is getting better. He had some problems. We want him back obviously and tomorrow I hope he will be ready for the game and show the character that we have seen throughout the season.”

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Elaborating on injuries, the 55-year-old added, “Harmanjot Khabra will not be playing tomorrow as he suffered an injury in the Maldives (in the AFC Cup). Boithang (Haokip) also finished with some muscle problems, which are not serious, but enough to not play tomorrow.”

Roca also said that his team would keep working on getting results and singled out the Stallions as their toughest opponents currently. “Everybody is expecting us to play good football. For us, it is a big challenge to prove that we are there. So we have to work hard for our supporters and show that we are ready for the playoffs. And tomorrow is the first test of the three. We have to learn from these tests. I am sure Pune will be in the playoffs, so they can be one of our opponents there as well. So this a chance for us to learn about them.”

Meanwhile, FC Pune City assistant coach Vladica Grujic acknowledged the strength of his team’s opponents but maintained Pune were braced for the challenge. “Bengaluru FC are the best team in Hero ISL right now,” the Serbian stated. “We know their quality and the fact that they have qualified for the playoffs. We maybe have one more step left for qualifying and tomorrow is an opportunity to do that. We know how dangerous our opponent will be. But, we also know our quality. We know the good things we can do.”

Published: Fri Feb 16, 2018 07:43 PM IST


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