It’s being labeled as a virtual semifinal among other things but coach Ashley Westwood chose to play down Bengaluru FC’s big clash against East Bengal at the Kanteerava Stadium, on Sunday, saying that while the stakes are high, there will be no pressure to chase a win. “It is not vital to win to be quite honest. Looking at the table, we need to win two and draw one game. We are two points in front. We can’t afford to lose. We will go out and try to win. We are going to try and back it up with a good performance,” he said while addressing the press on Saturday.
Echoing the gaffer’s sentiments was Curtis Osano who will be marshalling the Blues’ back four. “There’s no pressure. It is a normal game of football. We are going to go out and play a good game of football. It is not really do-or-die,” said the Kenyan.
With three games to play for, East Bengal (24 points) are in the running for the title along with Bengaluru FC (26 points) and Mohun Bagan (26) who have played a game more and were to host DSK Shivajians in a 7.05 pmkick-off at the time of writing this preview.
A big miss on the night for the Blues will be defender John Johnson who is serving a one-game suspension after picking up his fourth yellow card of the season in the 1-1 draw against DSK Shivajians on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see who Westwood chooses to pair Curtis Osano with in central defence with Ranjam Salam Singh and Keegan Pereira being options.
“Johnson’s an influential, aggressive player. He is strong in the air. But we have played without him before. We will give someone else a chance. We always rotate, we always chop and change. He (Johnson) was on three yellows for a while and we knew it was coming. It is not a problem. We will be fine,” said Westwood.
East Bengal, meanwhile, will have an absentee in the same position after Arnab Mondal was handed a two-match suspension after being found guilty of using ‘aggressive and abusive words against Cornell Glen’ during the Kolkata derby played a week ago. The verdict was announced by the AIFF on Saturday morning.
Mondal apart, left-back Robert Lalthlamuana misses the game after failing to recover from an injury picked up in the draw against Mumbai FC.
Kanteerava hasn’t really been a happy memory for East Bengal after they were handed a 3-0 drubbing by Bengaluru when they came here last season. And the Kolkata side would be keen to erase the blot. The Blues followed up that win with another one this season, beating East Bengal 1-0 at the Barasat Stadium.
The game kicks off at 7.05 pm and will be telecast on the Ten 2 network.