Talking Point: Will Bengaluru’s attack finally come to the fore?

When southern rivals Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC square off at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Friday, both teams will be looking to gain some momentum with a win having shared the spoils in their previous Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 match. The fixture could be a low-scoring affair since both teams boast a solid defence. However, after goalless draws in their previous outings, the southern rivals will be eager to get a win under their belt, especially Bengaluru since they are winless this season. Here, we take a look at some of the factors that could dictate the outcome of the clash between the Marina Machans and the Blues.

Chennaiyin’s backline’s strong start to the season

Chennaiyin FC kept their first clean sheet of Hero ISL 2020-21 against Kerala Blasters by restricting the Kochi-based side to eight shots and just one on target. They have conceded once in their opening two games of the season, making it their best start to a Hero ISL campaign. They along with ATK Mohun Bagan are the team that have conceded the least shots on goal as well as on target. Csaba Laszlo’s men have conceded just 16 shots so far, out of which only three have been on target. The Marina Machans’ defence fared well against the Blues the last time they met as both teams played out a goalless draw. If Chennaiyin do keep a clean sheet against Bengaluru, they will be registering successive shut-outs for the first time since Hero ISL 2017-18.

Bengaluru’s goal-scoring woes

Like last season, goal-scoring is proving to be a challenge for Bengaluru early in Hero ISL 2020-21. They managed just three shots in their last match against Hyderabad – the least by a Bengaluru side in the Hero ISL as well as the least by a team this season. The Blues have attempted 12 shots in two matches this campaign and tested the opposition goalkeeper thrice. Bengaluru continue to be heavily reliant on set-pieces, which accounted for more than half of their goals last season and they have struggled to penetrate the opposition box with just six shots from inside the box in the ongoing campaign. Their front three of Sunil Chhetri, Cleiton Silva and Kristian Opseth must do better having combined for four shots in two games. By comparison, Ashique Kuruniyan has taken most shots (3) for them, while Deshorn Brown, who has played just 73 minutes, has taken two shots.

Thapa, Chhangte have begun well and will hope to kick on

Last season’s top Indian scorer from midfield with seven goals, Lallianzuala Chhangte is yet to score or provide an assist in Hero ISL 2020-21. However, his crossing has been one of the most impressive aspects of his game. He has attempted the most crosses (8) and completed the most crosses (5) for Chennaiyin so far. Chhangte’s four key passes made are also the most by a Marina Machans player and he will be looking to add to his impressive numbers against Bengaluru. Like Chhangte, Thapa has looked good on the pitch in Hero ISL 2020-21 and is capable of dictating play from the center of the park against the Blues. The India international has already netted a beautiful goal for them – the first by an Indian this season – and has taken the second highest shots for Chennaiyin (5) besides also making the joint most recoveries (15) and most interceptions (10) for them.

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