Published from Mumbai, Delhi & Bhopal

Bengaluru take on NorthEast United with top-four hopes in the balance

Fatorda (Goa) : Bengaluru FC will be desperate to get back to winning ways and more importantly stay close to the top-four pack when they take on rock-bottom NorthEast United FC in the 2021-22 Hero Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, here on Friday.

The Blues saw their three-game winning run come to an end against league leaders Hyderabad FC the other night. But head coach Marco Pezzaouli would like to believe the result was just a bad day in the office for his charges who have been in good form otherwise, and against struggling NorthEast United it is a golden opportunity to get back in the mix.

With 4 games remaining, Bengaluru need to win all their remaining games if they are to have any chance of progressing to the semi-finals.

Bengaluru are in sixth spot with 23 points from 16 outings, six adrift of Hyderabad and second-placed ATK Mohun Bagan. The former champions have a few key players missing for the game on Friday.

“Ashique and Roshan are not available, Rohit and Jayesh as well who are injured. In terms of long-term injuries, King, Amay, Harmanpreet are still missing. We have some players who are still suffering after the COVID situation,” said Pezzaiuoli ahead of the game.

The Blues added defender Yaya Banana to their squad in the January transfer window and Pezzaiuoli said they need to take a careful approach with the Cameroonian defender as he had an 11-day quarantine period. “Yaya has trained for a week with us, we have to be careful about him because he had an 11 day quarantine period. We need to prepare him for the next steps. He can create an overload in midfield and is very good defensively.”

On NorthEast United who have not tasted victory this year, enduring a 10-game winless run, the coach said: “I think they are a good, offensive team with good players who are individually skilled. They have some new faces as well, and we’ve watched their most recent games.

“We know how we played in the first game against them, obviously they are not the same team. They created chances in that game and that’s something we want to avoid.”

Bengaluru will miss Roshan Singh a lot as he has been a key player for them this season, having six assists to his name, the joint second highest after Ahmed Jahouh (7). No Indian player has more assists this season than Roshan. Four of Roshan’s assists have come from corner kicks. He is one of the main reasons why BFC (8) have scored more goals from corners than any other side.

Coming to NorthEast United, their season is all but over and the Highlanders have only pride to play for. With just 10 points in their kitty from 17 matches, Khalid Jamil’s side have managed just two wins so far having thrown away as many as 16 points from winning positions.

VP Suhair ended an 8-game goalless drought as he scored NorthEast United’s opening goal in their defeat to ATK Mohun Bagan and the striker will look to continue his form.

“Bengaluru have experienced players and we cannot take this match lightly. We have to finish the season strongly, for everyone in the camo, it is a serious game,” said Jamil.

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