Roca’s Men Take On Gokulam Kerala FC In Opener; Delgado, Khabra To Miss Out
Odisha: Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC will look to build on their reputation of a team that always does well in Cup competitions when they begin their Super Cup campaign, in Odisha, with a pre-quarter clash against Gokulam Kerala FC at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday.
The Blues are no strangers to the Kalinga Stadium, having claimed a 2-0 win against Jamshedpur FC in the Indian Super League, but Roca feels that past results in the city will count for little heading into the tournament.
“It’s true that we have played in Odisha before and come away with some good results and a trophy (Federation Cup, 2017) but tomorrow is the beginning of a new tournament against a team we have never played competitively. We will have to be at our best if we are to progress through to the next round,” said Roca.
Bengaluru met Gokulam Kerala FC twice in closed doors pre-season friendlies at the club’s training facility in Bellary in 2017, and Roca feels Sunday’s opposition have improved massively since. The Bino George-coached side rode on a Henry Kisekka brace in a 2-0 win over NorthEast United to enter the pre-quarters of the Super Cup earlier in March.
“We know how good Gokulam are because we faced them twice in pre-season, and we saw the game against NorthEast. They have improved a lot since then and I have been watching them closely in the I-League as well. They got some good results towards the end of the League campaign against Mohun Bagan and East Bengal so we will have to be wary of their strengths,” the Spaniard said.
The Blues fly out to Guwahati for their AFC Cup Group E clash against Aizawl FC, on Thursday, and Roca stressed the importance of squad depth ahead of a hectic month of fixtures. “The closing stages of the ISL were tough because many of my players played those games when they weren’t in their best shape. We’re still missing (Harmanjot) Khabra and Dimas (Delgado), who are recovering from their injuries. With the AFC Cup games in between, I will have to rotate my squad and use as many players as I can.”
Kick-off at the Kalinga Stadium is on Sunday at 5 pm and will be telecast live on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and JioTV.