Bengaluru FC face Kerala Blasters in their final Group A encounter at the EMS Corporation Stadium, in Kozhikode, on Sunday with both sides looking to boost their chances of qualifying for the Hero Super Cup 2023 semi-final. The clash, which will be played in parallel with the other Group A match between RoundGlass Punjab and Sreenidi Deccan, pits a three-way battle between the Blues, the Blasters and Sreenidi that will determine which side makes it through to the semi-finals.

“It was nice to get the win and the clean sheet in the last game. But the focus firmly remains on what we need to do to win the next game. The significance of the game on Sunday makes it a massive game for us,” said Bengaluru FC Head Coach Simon Grayson, ahead of Sunday’s encounter.

The two sides come into Sunday’s game on the back of contrasting results. Bengaluru posted their first win of the tournament with a 2-0 win against RoundGlass Punjab, whereas the Men in Yellow lost to Deccan by the same scoreline.

Both sides have players who are running the risk of suspensions, with Jeakson Singh, Ayush Adhikari and striker Dimitrios Diamantakos all on yellow cards for the Blasters, while Rohit Kumar, Parag Shrivas and Sandesh Jhingan picked up cautions in the previous game. But considering the magnitude of the game, both coaches would be expected to put out their strongest eleven.

“Whenever you play Kerala Blasters FC, you know that it’s a big game, for the bragging rights on the pitch and off it as well. It has all the ingredients of a fantastic game, with the spice of the rivalry, and I expect a good crowd in the stadium which we are all looking forward to,” added Grayson.

The onus of leading Ishfaq Ahmed’s outfit past the Blues will fall on Diamantakos, who scored 10 goals in 21 Hero Indian Super League (ISL) games and has captained the side in the absence of Uruguayan midfielder Adrian Luna. For the Blues, Javi Hernandez will once again be a key part of proceedings, with the Spaniard scoring twice in the tournament so far, the highest in the Blues’ camp.

“You can only control what you do, and we can’t let what happens in the other game affect us. We have to make sure that we are ruthless in both boxes and try to limit the Blasters to as few opportunities as possible,” said Grayson, laying down the marker for his side ahead of the big game.