Must remain strong mentally against a tough NorthEast United team: Bengaluru FC coach Marco Pezzaiuoli

Bengaluru FC head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli wants his team to be fully focussed for the entire 90 minutes against a ‘strong’ NorthEast United FC side when they take on the Highlanders at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolim, Goa on Saturday.

Having finished seventh last season, the fans will hope for a fresh start under the new head coach. However, their AFC Cup ended on a bitter note, after crashing out in the group stages and the Blues will have to get their act together in the Hero ISL.

The Blues though have had a pretty decent pre-season, with the junior players also treated to some competitive action in the 2021 Durand Cup. The relatively new squad is now all geared up for the 2021-22 ISL.

Ahead of the opening game on Saturday, Bengaluru FC head coach Pezziuoli addressed the media in the virtual pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the press conference:

You have NorthEast United FC first up, how are you looking forward to the game?

NorthEast United FC is a strong team, last season they reached the semi-finals. Nobody expected that. We were at the seventh spot, we are not looking backwards. But, the main players in the NorthEast United are still there, which means we will face a team with a strong mentality, very compact, have different type of tactics. I think it is important that we play our game, play good in our defence and don’t give the opponents many chances.

We know Brown (Deshorn), he played over here, then afterwards went to NorthEast United FC and scored five goals. Here, in BFC, before my time, he did not score many goals. He is a player with high-quality, high speed and can create chances, this means we don’t need to give him space behind in the defence lines. And yeah, we’ll try to create our chances against NorthEast United FC against a strong Indian coach, with a strong mentality on the pitch. He’s always pushing his players. We need to be strong mentally.

Suresh (Wangjam) did not take part much in the training. How is he shaping up for the first match?

Think it is very important to protect young players like Suresh, who has a lot of energy, but is injured. That means he needs to have a pre-season. Pre-season is not only playing games, it is developing step-by-step condition-wise. We need to see when he’s joining the team, how he comes to the game, how he’s doing.

As I saw him in the national team, as well as the U23 team, the AFC Cup, he did well, he is a hard worker. He is also improving with the ball, but he needs training to reach the next step and play well with the ball and then do it in games. Without training, it is difficult for the player to recover from injuries, be in 100% condition and also to evolve.

How have the new signings gelled with the current squad?

The foreign players are doing well. There was a new foreign player who came, they learned good English, that’s the first part. The Brazilian guy is improving their English things, that means he is understanding the tactics, how we want to play. The understanding is very good. I think King, Alan and Bruno are leaders as well as Prince. Prince had an issue before the beginning of the new season, but now he’s back in good condition and I think they are feeling good in the new team.

Jayesh Rane has been a crucial player under Khalid Jamil during his stay in the I-League. Do you think he will be an asset for you going forward in the first game?

First of all, Jayesh stepped up well with the new team. He’s doing well, we saw already that in the AFC Cup, he was getting better and better. I think what happened in the past game is not necessary. I think Jayesh must be starting, there is a possibility that he starts, and I hope he will have a great game. It’s important that he brings that in the game which he shows in the training, the practice game and also the AFC Cup. We will enjoy him in the season.

In terms of the tactical aspect and the style of play you wanted to play, how far along have you seen of what you exactly want them to do on the field?

I think when you saw the AFC Cup game, we  improved game by game, after that we had a break. Still now we do not have enough games to practice, but it takes time. In football, games are important, because in games we can analyze, in games the player can battle the opponent, the player can feel the situation of what the coaches are talking about. Now we have a lot of games, every four days, and I think we are very good in technique-wise, offensive, defence-wise and also in the transitions and I look forward to doing these in the games.

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