Bengaluru, February 15: FC Pune City will push for a spot in the semi-finals when they take on leaders Bengaluru FC in an Indian Super League clash at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Friday (February 16).
Debutants BFC, who have qualified for the semi-finals already by beating FC Goa 2-0 last week, look to stamp their authority on other teams but second-placed Pune City will be a tough battle.
Pune assistant coach Vladica Grujic says the goal now is to seal a spot in the ISL knockouts. "Bengaluru FC have shown that they are the best team in the league, having qualified already. We know how they qualified. We have to take one step further to participate in the ISL semi-finals. They are a difficult team to play against but we know our quality and we know what we can do," he said on Thursday (February 15).
AR: Staying on top of the table might not get us the cup, and I respect the rules of the League. But it's a way of showing our fans that we are the most consistent team and it's definitely a matter of pride. #BENPUN— Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) February 15, 2018
Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro led the Pune City attack - sharing 15 goals among them, while Adil Khan has chipped in with four crucial goals. Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, have scored plenty of goals this season through set-pieces and Grujic hinted they are ready with a plan to counter BFC.
"I think they score via set-pieces every second game," Grujic said. "The only thing you can do as a team defending set-pieces is by staying close and not allowing them space. We didn't plan any special training for guarding against their set-pieces but this could be one game where you could see them not scoring through set-pieces, I would say."
Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca feels the game will be a good test for his team against one of the teams which are sure to qualify for the ISL semi-finals.
"The most important goal for us was to be here (leading the table)," Roca said. "Now it's about keeping the momentum. We are still training to be better for us to try and keep this position. Pune are the most difficult team in the ISL at the moment. Tomorrow, we play a Pune side which will surely be in the play-off (semi-finals). Anything we can learn tomorrow will be good for us in the future."
BFC have roped in Spaniard Daniel Segovia as a replacement for injured Braulio Nobrega and coach Albert Roca confirmed that Segovia will not feature in Friday's outing. BFC will also miss Boithang Haokip and Harmanjot Khabra to injuries.
Captain Sunil Chhetri, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Miku, who did not travel to Maldives for the AFC Cup game against TC Sports Club two days ago, are expected to start against FC Pune City.
Bengaluru FC vs FC Pune City
Indian Super League
Live from Sree Kanteerava Stadium
At 8 pm (Friday, February 16)
On Star Sports 2 and Hotstar