Semifinal Spot At Stake As Indian Super League Knockouts Commence In Bengaluru
Bengaluru: Simon Grayson’s Bengaluru FC side are all set for a first-ever Indian Super League knockout fixture, as they welcome Kerala Blasters to the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Friday. The Blues, who finished fourth in the League stage, square off against Ivan Vukomanovic-coached Kerala Blasters, who finished fifth, three points behind Bengaluru.
“We’ve beaten some really good teams in the tournament, so the team is in good spirits and is confident going into this match. It’s a one-off game and I’m sure the atmosphere is going to be electric,” said Grayson, speaking to the media on the eve of the game.
The two teams squared off three weeks ago at the same venue, with a Roy Krishna strike being the only point of difference in a 1-0 win for Grayson’s men. Bengaluru will once again look to take advantage of home conditions, having never lost to the Blasters at the Kanteerava.
“It’s a slightly different game, but we have a bit of an advantage by playing at home. The approach will be the same as last time, playing with our heads and our hearts, not making mistakes, with good intensity and earn our right to win,” said Grayson.
Grayson will look to get Javi Hernandez and Sandesh Jhingan back into the mix with the duo being benched in the Blues’ 3-1 win against FC Goa last week. Alan Costa could also be in contention to feature in Friday’s game, with the defender set to return after missing the last two games.
Vukomanovic’s men, meanwhile, come into the knockout having lost their final League game of the season to Hyderabad FC in Kochi (0-1). The Blasters’ will bank on their attacking duo of forward Dimitrios Diamantakos, who is their topscorer this season with 10 goals, and Uruguayan midfielder Adrian Luna who has provided six assists and created 47 chances this season. Ukrainian midfielder Ivan Kaliuzhnyi is set to miss out, having picked up his seventh yellow card of the regular season against Hyderabad.
“They (Kerala) have got some fantastic players and we have to be wary of them. We’ve done our work this week to ensure that we know their strengths and weaknesses and reduce their impact on the game. It’s important that we play the game and not the occasion because there’s a lot riding on this game. We have to keep our heads down and work hard,” Grayson opined.
Friday’s knockout between the Blues and the Blasters will be the first fixture of its kind in Indian Super League history. The winner of this encounter will face Mumbai City FC in a two-legged semifinal, with the first fixture to be played in Mumbai on March 7th.
Kick-off at the Kanteerava on Friday is scheduled for 7.30 PM IST and will be telecast live on the STAR Sports Network, Disney+ Hotstar, JioTV and OneFootball (for international viewers). Tickets to the fixture are available on PayTM Insider.