The Blasters will look to avenge their defeat in the reverse fixture.
Bengaluru FC welcome Kerala Blasters FC to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru for their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 fixture on Thursday. The Blues were the first to qualify for the semi-finals this season and with a seven-match unbeaten run to their name at present, they have secured the top-place in the standings as well. They would aim to finish the league stage with a flourish to keep their momentum high as the semi-finals beckon.
Addressing the media during the pre-match press conference was their head coach Albert Roca, who stated that despite having sealed all the requirements, the team was not taking their final league fixture lightly. “It is the last game of the season and we would just like to win, and have the same mentality that we have maintained throughout the season,” he said. “We will have to be strong because we know how difficult the playoffs can be. Tomorrow is our last game, so we will give our best. I expect a difficult game tomorrow.”
Regarding the rivalry between the two set of passionate fans, the 55-year-old remarked, “I hope we play a good game and everyone enjoys the show. I like the rivalry. It has to be there. It is what creates the passion in football. This type of rivalry is also good for Indian football; to shout and share the banter in a good way. The fans should support the teams as much as they can, but in a right way.”
The team had eased into the playoff qualification while securing top-spot with equal comfort, but Roca has eyes only for the Hero ISL title. “This is a moment of passion for our hard work over the last few months,” he shared. “Being there is an award, but we would like the big one. So it’s about putting everything in one box and try to do our best and see if we are able to be there. I am really confident of my players. It’s not going to be easy and we have to give a hundred percent or even more.”
On the eve of the match, Kerala’s head coach David James spoke to the media during the pre-match press conference and shared his thoughts on the team’s current results. “It’s frustrating because five games ago, we had set a target of six wins that would ensure our qualification and now five games later, we are unbeaten, but still at the mercy of other teams,” he stated. “We are giving it our best go. One win and a loss would have been better than two draws, but being unbeaten sounds better.”
Regarding their opponents Bengaluru, the Englishman acknowledged their strength. “Bengaluru are a very good side and they have to be respected for their footballing capabilities,” he remarked. “That makes the game tough for us. We are also playing on their pitch which makes it extra tough. But it’s another game of football and we need to win the game.”
A full-strength squad is available to James and he explained how he would select his squad. “We only need one goal. A 1 – 0 will do and I don’t care who scores,” he said. “We have a full-strength squad. That means every player is available for selection and it’s down to how the squad plays. We are playing a different opposition in Bengaluru. That is why they are so far apart in the league. So, the team selection would be based on how to nullify Bengaluru’s strength.”
Before leaving, the 47-year-old also lauded his squad and their mindset. “This is a side with a lot of quality and self-belief,” he opined. “All you need to do is get the right kind of people around the players to encourage the self-belief. I think we have done that. We have not been perfect because we have lost two games and drawn three. There is still work to do. There is always room for improvement in football. I have inherited a quality group of players and all I can do as a head coach is to get the best out of everybody.”