Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson expects his players to deliver a good game in the second leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final, as the Blues host Mumbai City FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Sunday.
Bengaluru FC got the all-important 1-0 lead in the first leg of the semi-final at the Mumbai Football Arena, thanks to Sunil Chhetri's late header. Despite having a majority of possession and firing 17 shots at the opposition, the Islanders failed to find the net.
Whereas, the Blues executed their game plan well, being defensively solid and threatening their opponents on counter-attacks and set-pieces. Grayson acknowledged the threat possessed by the Mumbai City FC's attack but is convinced about his team's ability to get another clean sheet on Sunday.
"We said before the game that we had to make sure that we are still in the second leg and that's what we've done. That's all we've done, by giving ourselves an advantage of 1-0 lead," Grayson said in the pre-match press conference.
"We played against a very good team. We had to play well against them defensively, we showed what we're capable of doing and we still looked the threat on the break when we did go forward. So, I don't think our game plan will change too much, nor will Mumbai City FC's game plan. They got 54 goals this season, they know and we'll believe they've got goals in them. But, we obviously have a lot of belief that we can keep a clean sheet and score goals at the same time," he added.
With the Blues on a 10-match winning streak, Grayson has barely changed the starting eleven during this run. But with Sunil Chhetri scoring three goals in the last four matches as a substitute, the talks of Chhetri potentially getting a start have gone louder.
"I haven't changed the team at all, to be fair over this run and why should I? Because of the confidence I've got in those players, they deserve to keep the shirt. They don't need to be rested because they're playing once a week," Grayson said.
"So players are out there too. You have to keep working and be ready and when they come off the bench, whoever is, Sunil Chhetri, Pablo (Perez), Alan (Costa), Leon (Augustine), Jayesh (Rane). They have to be ready to show what they are capable of doing and it's just the way that the games have gone. If we had been losing games for the last few weeks, I'm sure Perez would have started a few more games" he added.
Even though it's a 1-0 slender lead, Bengaluru FC have an advantage as they are playing at their home stadium. At the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, the Blues have won all their last six games, which is also a new club record. Mumbai City FC's 18-match winning streak was also halted at this venue, where Chhetri scored the header as he did in the first leg of this semi-final.
As it is going to be the last match at home this season for the Blues, Bengaluru FC fans are expected to turn up in large numbers. Grayson promised to give the supporters something to cheer at the end of the final whistle.
"The motivation is that we're 90 minutes away from getting into the ISL final. If there's 500 people or 25,000 people, we've got to make sure that we do what we need to do and it will be an incredible atmosphere for sure," he said.
"We said all season, we look bouncing off the fans and the fans bounce off us and this is a two-way thing and we have to do that. That's why it is an important part after every game, I make sure the players go and see the supporters because it takes money, time and effort (to come and support us) all around the country. This place should be rocking on Sunday night and hopefully, they've got something to cheer about after the final whistle," he added.
Midfielder Suresh Wangjam accompanied Grayson in the pre-match press conference. Wangjam has been one of the coach's trusted players this season. He has made an impressive 83 tackles and 26 interceptions so far. The 22-year-old player thanked the coach for keeping the faith in him and gave his assessment of MCFC's gameplay in the first leg.
"I feel like every season I'm improving and there are a lot of things to improve also and I want to thank the coach also because at the start of the season, I was making silly mistakes, maybe other coaches might put me out but he trusted me and I have been working so hard and assistant coach has been working with me in individual training," he said in the pre-match press conference.
"Mumbai City FC were good. They were keeping the ball position but we did a great job. We didn't allow them to enter our box and it was a physical game but it was the same like every game, and against MCFC, it was tough defending against (Greg) Stewart because he is a good player and he's strong, but it was good," he concluded. (ANI)