Kerala, Bengaluru set to renew rivalry in quest for three points

All eyes will be on the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Monday when Kerala Blasters FC host the mighty Bengaluru FC in Match 29 of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19. Both teams are unbeaten this season so far and will be looking to get all three points from the crunch tie.

The Kerala-Bengaluru rivalry may be relatively new in the Hero ISL, but the competition between the two teams have been fierce in their meetings last season. Both fixtures offered plenty of drama and a lot of late goals to go with it. In fact, five of the six goals scored in these two matches have come in the added minutes of the second half. With both teams hailing from the southern part of the country and boasting of two of the most dedicated fan bases in the Hero ISL, Monday's fixture promises to be a treat.

Kerala Blasters FC:

Kerala may be undefeated this season but have only managed to win one of their five matches so far, with the rest ending in draws. David James' men have looked like a potent side going forward and have registered at least one goal in all of their matches so far. The forward players like Matej Poplatnik, Slavisla Stojanovic, Halicharan Narzary and CK Vineeth seem to have gelled well and all of them have registered their names on the score sheet. Seiminlen Doungel has looked like a creative force linking up the midfield with the attack and already has three assists to his name. However, the Kerala side has been far from clinical in front of goal. The team is playing well and creating a lot of chances, but the goal conversion rate has left much to be desired. In their last match against FC Pune City, the men in yellow had a whopping 27 shots at goal and managed to score only once to claim a 1-1 draw.

The Kerala defence led by captain Sandesh Jhingan managed to shut out ATK in the opening match of the season but has failed to register a single clean sheet since then. Under James, Kerala has been playing attacking football with the defence keeping a high line to maintain pressure on the opposition midfielders. While it has worked well in parts, the advanced back line also makes the team vulnerable to quick counter-attacks. The style of play may prove to be particularly dangerous against a pacey Bengaluru side, who excel in counter-attacking football. Another concern for James will be his team's woeful home record of late. In their last eleven matches at home, the Blasters have managed to win only two - a record the team will be desperate to improve over the course of this season, preferably starting with the match against Bengaluru.

Here’s a look at Kerala’s current season in numbers:

Bengaluru FC

Under Carles Cuadrat, Bengaluru have hit the ground running this Hero ISL season. With three wins and a draw in their opening four matches, the Hero ISL 2017-18 finalists have already looked like a force to be reckoned with. The Blues' famed attacking duo of Sunil Chhetri and Miku have looked as dangerous as ever, with both scoring three goals each. Miku, in particular, will be the person of interest in the match considering the Venezuelan has made it a habit to score in away matches. The 33-year-old has an exceptional goal-scoring record on the road and has netted 13 times in the 12 away fixtures he has featured in. His equaliser against ATK in Bengaluru's last match made him the most successful goal scorer in away matches in Hero ISL history, as he went past Iain Hume's record of 12 away goals in 27 matches.

Bengaluru will also be a big threat from set pieces. Almost 50% of their 41 shots on goal so far have come from set-pieces or have resulted from one. Both of their goals in their last match against ATK came about from free-kicks. Despite losing John Johnson this season, Bengaluru's defence, comprising of Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Juanan and Albert Serran, has looked a solid unit. The back four has managed two clean sheets in their four outings so far. With form and momentum on their side, Chhetri and Co. will be eying all three points from this match.

Here’s a look at Bengaluru’s current season in numbers:

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:

Kerala Blasters FC: Naveen Kumar (GK), Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Cyril Kali, Mohamad Rakip, Sandesh Jhingan (C), Nikola Krcmarevic, Seiminlen Doungel, Sahal Abdul Samad, Slavisla Stojanovic, Matej Poplatnik, CK Vineeth

Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Rahul Bheke, Albert Serran, Juanan, Nishu Kumar, Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Harmanjot Khabra, Sunil Chhetri (C), Udanta Singh, Miku

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Miku has scored 3 goals in 2 matches against Kerala.
  • Since last season, Bengaluru have accumulated 27 points in away matches - the most by any team.
  • Kerala took 27 shots on goal in their previous match against Pune – the most by any team in a single match this season.

FANSPEAK

Which captain will have the last laugh on Monday?

  • Sandesh Jhingan
  • Sunil Chhetri

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