Saturday, May 20, 2017

Stage set for Bengaluru - Mohun Bagan battle at Barabati

AIFF Media 
Bengaluru FC  Media

Three weeks on the road, a season-ending injury to their talismanic captain and a last gasp penalty save to send them to the summit clash later, Bengaluru FC will look to bring home a title they won in 2015 when they take on rivals Mohun Bagan in a Federation Cup final scripted for the gallery, at the Barabati Stadium, in Cuttack, on Sunday.

The fixture marks the sixth meeting between the two rivals this season and could well be the most important one given the winners bag a spot in next season’s AFC Cup. “Sunday will be our second cup final in less than a year and it’s something we are proud to be part of. The team has shown immense character to make it to this stage and we are ready to give it one final push. I would say Bagan are the favourites with some big names on their roster and the availability of all four foreigners for this fixture. We have no problem being the underdogs,” said Roca while addressing the press on the eve of the game.

In what will be a vital miss for the Blues, midfielder Cameron Watson whose penalty sent Roca’s men to the final, won’t have any part to play in the big clash owing to a suspension. “Cameron has been an important player for us all season and his experience will be missed in the midfield. But like I’ve said before, we have enough quality on this squad and ability has never been a worry for me. Everyone on the squad knows what is at stake and I’m expecting them bring their best to the final.”

In Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru will be up against arguably one of the strongest strike forces in the country and the battle between a John Johnson-led defence and Darryl Duffy, Sony Norde and Balwant Singh will be key to how the final unfolds. “We back ourselves in defence as much as we do in attack and we’re all relishing the prospect of this clash. It’s been a tough three weeks on the road but it now all comes down to this one game and we will be giving it everything,” said Johnson who will, in all likelihood, pull on the captain’s armband.

Bengaluru’s road to the final wasn’t as smooth as Roca would have liked it to be but the Spaniard hopes his side finish things off on a high. The Blues beat Shillong Lajong 3-2 in the league-phase opener before suffering a shock 2-0 defeat to DSK Shivajians. Bengaluru then managed a 1-1 draw with Bagan which was enough to set up a semifinal clash against League champions Aizawl FC. Watson’s early penalty seemed enough to get the job done before Aizawl were awarded a penalty in the last minute of added time. But Amrinder Singh guessed correctly to keep the take out and hand Bengaluru a shot at the title. 

“We’ve made it a little more difficult for ourselves than we would have liked to but that’s how football can be sometimes. What’s important is we showed character and tomorrow will be another test of it,” said Roca.

Bagan, in comparison, had it relatively easier, beating DSK 4-0, Lajong 3-2 and then handing arch rivals East Bengal a 2-0 defeat in the semifinal.  

The game kicks off at 7 pm and will be beamed live on the Ten 2 network.

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