Talking Point: Will Gary Hooper come good against Bengaluru’s resolute defence?

Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC will both be gunning for maximum points when the southern rivals clash at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday. While the Blues will be eager to maintain their unbeaten start to Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21, the Blasters will be seeking their first win of the campaign. Past meetings between these two teams have been passionate and high-voltage clashes and Sunday’s contest between the two promises to be no different. Here, we assess some of the factors that could decide the outcome the upcoming meeting between the southern rivals.

Kerala’s defence must do better

Yet to keep a clean sheet this season, the Blasters must be more solid at the back if they are expecting a turnaround in fortunes. They have made their share of avoidable lapses at the back so far and need to be more focused. Their tendency to give away penalties like they did in the clashes against NorthEast United FC and Chennaiyin FC doesn’t help their cause either. Individual lapses defensively seem to be costing Kerala and this is reflected in the fact that despite conceding just 13 shots on target so far, the Blasters have let in six goals.

Bengaluru continue to thrive from set-pieces

Perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in the league, Bengaluru’s set-piece prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the teams and Kerala will do well to be alert in such situations. The Blues’ last game also saw a throw-in lead to a goal and most of their best scoring opportunities come from set-pieces. Bengaluru have scored from set-pieces in three out of their four games so far. Juanan, who is their top-scorer at the moment with two goals, is one of their biggest set-piece threats alongside the imposing Erik Paartalu. Bengaluru’s threat from set-pieces can further be highlighted by the fact that they have netted four goals form such situations and eight of their 15 shots on target have come from set-pieces.

Gary Hooper needs to come good for Kerala

While it can be argued that Gary Hooper needs better service to be a menace in the opposition box, the Englishman will be hoping to do more whenever he has the ball at his feet. His only goal this season has been from the penalty spot and a return of just three shots on goal so far tells its own story. Roped in to replace the prolific Bartholomew Ogbeche at the beginning of the season, it’s safe to say that Hooper hasn’t reached the heights expected of him. That said, it would be naive to ignore the threat that he can pose when on song and perhaps he’s just a goal away from rediscovering his scoring touch.

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