Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson urged his players to play with passion and desire in the Indian Super League (ISL) playoff knockout fixture against Kerala Blasters FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday.
Bengaluru FC is entering this fixture high on confidence with Grayson's side currently on an eight-match winning streak, the longest in the club's history. Whereas Kerala Blasters FC are coming into this game after a loss against Hyderabad FC in the last league fixture. The Blasters have lost four out of the last five matches including the one against Grayson's team at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
The BFC head coach acknowledged that the previous win against the KBFC would improve their confidence and backed his side to continue their form in the upcoming fixture.
"Obviously, we will get extra confidence from beating Kerala Blasters FC, but we have been confident when we beat ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa, and Mumbai City FC, so we will go into the game with really strong spirits, good confidence, but not over-confidence. The performance against Kerala Blasters FC the other week was very good, which helped us along the way to where we are now. But this is a different game. It is a one-off game," Grayson said in the pre-match press conference as quoted by an ISL press release.
"The atmosphere will probably be electric. Maybe twice as mad as it was, a few weeks ago and it's a different game, different personnel but we just have to approach it like we did in the league game. We have to be hard to play against when we get opportunities to be ruthless and play with your head as well as your heart, play with the passion and desire that's embroiled in these games, but you got to make sure you do not do something.. that is going to cost the team in the long term (view) of the game," he added.
In the league stage, both teams have won against each other in their respective home stadiums. While BFC registered a 1-0 win over KBFC in Bengaluru, the Yellow Army registered a 3-2 win over the Blues in Kochi. As a result, both teams are aware of each other's strong and weak points and it might crucial on Friday. Grayson cited that the Blues have prepared for the fixture, but cautioned their players to be ready if the Blasters come up with a different gameplan.
"We have done our work this week and it has been sort of mentioning what (Adrian) Luna can do. But you certainly have to be wary that they have got some lots of other fantastic players as well, we've got to be certainly aware. So, we understand the basic principles of how they have played from the two games being involved against them. But if they come up with a different game plan, we have to deal with it. We respect the opposition. We do the work on the opposition. We know the strengths and weaknesses. But we got to make sure that we play to our capabilities and if we do then we've proved that we can hurt a lot of teams, who are some of the best teams in this division," he commented.
With the Blues finishing fourth, one spot above Kerala Blasters FC, they will host Ivan Vukomanovic's side in Bengaluru. Grayson explained how different these knockout games can be and hoped that his experience would help the team to sail through.
"This is slightly different because when you go to the two-legged games you have always got to make sure that you are still in the tie for the second leg, but the Friday game is different because it's a single leg game and we are at home which has been a big advantage. Throughout my professional career, I have been involved in a lot of playoff games as a player, and as a coach, so I know what it's like to win and lose in these games. Hopefully, that experience from my side will help us along the way and get my message across to the players," the Englishman said.
Midfielder Rohit Kumar accompanied Grayson in the pre-match press conference. Kumar has been a revelation for Bengaluru FC this season. The Delhi-born player has been a vital cog for the Blues during their offensive and defensive transition. The 26-year-old has scored three goals and has 24 interceptions to his name. Kumar said that they will respect the opponent but the main focus will be on themselves.
"Everyone is very excited and motivated for the game because it is a crucial game for us and I know it will be a more difficult game than the previous one. We respect the opponent, but we will focus more on ourselves and I hope we'll get the result and will try to do the right things on the ground," Kumar said in the pre-match press conference.
Kumar was not a regular starter for the Blues during their Durand Cup-winning campaign. Even in the early part of the season, Kumar did not get much playing time, but was handed a start against NorthEast United FC and helped the team to get a 2-1 win. Since then, BFC have won eight games in a row and Kumar has started all games under Grayson. The midfielder explained how he patiently waited for his opportunity and that was looking forward to Friday's game.
"As a player, my job is to work hard and train well and whenever I get a chance I'll try to make use of it and improve myself, help the team in whichever way I can for the team. We are in good form and hopefully, we will keep this momentum on. Friday's game is a big game, so we will take a game at a time," he concluded. (ANI)