The Indian Super League returns after the international break with the clash between Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday.
The South Indian rivals will look to make the most of a charged atmosphere in front of expectant supporters and breathe life into their respective campaigns.
Bengaluru and Kerala find themselves in the middle of the pack with the hosts in the fifth position with six points from four games, while the Kochi-based side are seventh with four points.
Though Bengaluru are one of only three sides to remain undefeated in the ISL so far, they have only one win to their name. It came against Chennaiyin FC, just before the international break.
More importantly, Carles Cuadrat’s side found their scoring boots as they pumped three goals past Chennaiyin after managing only one in their first three matches. Captain Sunil Chhetri also opened his account for the season in that game.
“I think we are working well from the start of the season. We could have won all the three games (first). I have good memories of playing in Kerala and I hear it is also sold out tomorrow, so that’s great for Indian football. They are a top team and I hope it will be a great match,” said Cuadrat.
Once again, the likes of Erik Paartalu and Raphael Augusto will be key with the former’s return from injury proving a huge shot in the arm for Bengaluru.
“There are a lot of people who live in Bangalore who are from Kerala, so it adds a bit more to the rivalry. It’s important for us to put on a spectacle. We want to put on a show and make sure these fans come back week in and week out because that’s what’s important,” said Paartalu.
The Blues’ defence, led by Juanan, has looked strong and they have conceded just one goal in four games – that too a penalty. There is a slight issue though for Cuadrat, given that Rahul Bheke is nursing a niggle he picked up during India’s World Cup qualifier against Oman earlier this week.
Breaching that watertight backline will be a tough job for Eelco Schattorie’s Kerala Blasters who will count on the support from a considerable number of away fans who are expected at the Kanteerava.
Kerala, after their opening day win against ATK, have struggled and are winless in three games. The ATK game preceded defeats against Mumbai City and Hyderabad FC which was followed by a stalemate against Odisha FC at home.
Injuries to key personnel like Mario Arques, Raphael Messi Bouli and Jairo Rodrigues have not helped their cause.
“The most important thing is that, as a club, we are trying to do our best. Unfortunately, all my main centre-backs are injured and in midfield, Mario Arques is also injured. I am also a realistic person, we are giving it our all with whatever we have in hand,” said Schattorie.
It is always a spectacle when Bengaluru and Kerala lock horns. Can both sides rise to the occasion in front of what is set to be a packed stadium?