The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 looks set to witness another nail-biting clash when Bengaluru FC travel to take on Jamshedpur FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex on Sunday. There are teams that get on a sudden positive run of things upon the arrival of a new head coach, but the momentum that the Red Miners find themselves in currently is truly distinct and remarkable. Their improvement in performances under the tutelage of Khalid Jamil was visible in the Kalinga Super Cup, where they arguably beat all odds to make it to the semi-final.

They resumed the ISL campaign sluggishly, conceding a lead to settle for a 1-1 draw against NorthEast United FC. However, it was their second-half comeback by three goals that saw them beat Mumbai City FC 3-2 that made all heads turn.

The Islanders were taken aback by the energy and enthusiasm that Jamshedpur FC approached the second half on an away turf. They must be taking a lot of confidence from that performance at home against the Blues, who bounced back to winning ways with a comfortable 1-0 win over their southern rivals Chennaiyin FC.

The scoreline might suggest otherwise, but the Gerard Zaragoza-coached side was in control of the proceedings throughout the 90 minutes or so. They created chances aplenty, and gave away few of them, a pattern that the team would be hoping to see a repeat of against Jamshedpur FC. Zaragoza will want his forwards to put more chances to bed though, and whether they have improved on the finishing bit of things will be closely monitored in the coming clash.

What’s at stake?

Jamshedpur FC

Not many teams manage to overcome a two-goal deficit at the home of Mumbai City FC, and Jamil must be credited for optimising the strength of the squad at his disposal. His next task must be to blend in a sense of consistency within the team, so that they can produce such impressive results regularly. The previous game between the two sides had resulted in a 1-0 win for the Blues, with Javi Hernandez converting a penalty at the brink of half-time.

Jamshedpur FC does not boast of a positive record against Bengaluru FC lately, having lost each of their previous four games against the Blues. Further, the team has not been in the best of touch in their home turf either, being winless in their previous five ISL fixtures at the JRD Tata Sports Complex. A distinct feature of the Jamshedpur FC gameplay has been their tendency to commit fouls, making 12.6 of them on an average in each match, which is the highest amongst all teams this season.

Jamshedpur FC has appeared to be more lethal moving forward since Jamil came on board. Imran Khan has been sharp from the flank and Jeremy Manzorro has been equally proficient delivering sharp passes into the final third. TP Rehenesh has been solid between the posts, thwarting the waves of attacks the opposition unleashes upon him. The head coach will want all his players from the back to the front to be at the top of their game to hold a promising looking Bengaluru FC unit.

Bengaluru FC

Zaragoza must be pleased with the clean sheet that Bengaluru FC kept in the last game, as the club invested heavily in strengthening their defence in the January transfer window. The duo of Nikhil Poojary and Chinglensana Singh add impressive sharpness to the back, and it was in fact Poojary’s industriousness moving forward that helped them produce the move that led to the winner by Ryan Williams against Chennaiyin FC.

A win here will help Bengaluru FC secure their outright most consecutive victories against a single opposition in ISL history, having won four successive games against Jamshedpur FC. The Blues will want to address some concerns at the back, having given away goals in each of their last seven away matches.

This has not been the best of the seasons in the ISL for them, which reflects in the 14 points that they have garnered after 14 games, i.e. the least that the Blues have ever gotten at this stage of the competition. Moreover, the 22 goals they have conceded is their highest ever tally after 14 matches of any ISL season, and these are the loopholes they must look to look after in the next eight encounters.

These are the areas that Bengaluru FC should look to double down upon. Hernandez and Chhetri joined hands for some unique set-piece routines that unfortunately for them could not be converted against Chennaiyin FC, but similar efforts against Jamshedpur FC with slightly better efficiency could reap rich dividends for them.

Key Players

Imran Khan (Jamshedpur FC)

Imran Khan has been a brilliant prospect under Jamil’s watch, scoring once each in the last couple of matches. He has gotten into formidable goal-scoring positions, and shot sharply and on target, beating the goalkeeper from distance. The attacker has been equally involved in creating opportunities for fellow forwards. With 80% accuracy, he has attempted 26 passes per game and also created 14 goal-scoring opportunities. He has made nine interceptions and earned 13 fouls, showing his engagement in all facets of the gameplay. Imran will be looking to boost his goal contributions as the season progresses but he will have his task cut out against a newly bolstered Bengaluru FC backline.

Nikhil Poojary (Bengaluru FC)

Nikhil Poojary can be heralded as one of the most complete fullbacks in the ISL currently. He is defensively tenacious, unafraid to commit to challenges, neatly recovering possession and keeping things safe for his side on his end of the field. Offensively, he is very creative, and even eager to do something in the frontline for his fellow forwards.

He takes the backline higher up on the field, dissects the opposition’s defence with razor sharp passes, but most importantly ensures that all of this doesn’t lead to any sort of complacency in the backend of the field for him. He has made 24 tackles and 28 clearances in 13 league appearances this season, but was arguably a misfit in a misfiring Hyderabad FC unit. Will things turn around for him and Bengaluru FC in the rest of the campaign? Let’s wait and watch.

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Played – 13

Jamshedpur FC – 4

Bengaluru FC – 6

Draws – 3

Trivia: Jamshedpur FC has not scored in their last three encounters against Bengaluru FC.

Team Talk

“I have said it earlier also that whatever results we have gotten is because of the players. The foreign players are very mature and they are working hard. The senior Indian players are doing well and the youngsters are trying their best too. So it’s a mix of efforts from everyone,” Jamshedpur FC head coach Khalid Jamil remarked in the pre-match press conference.

“It’s an important game for us, but just as important as it was for us against Chennaiyin FC or for them against Mumbai City FC. They are amongst the five-six teams fighting for the sixth spot and it’s the most difficult ISL season in the last 10 years in that regard,” Bengaluru FC head coach Gerard Zaragoza said ahead of the match.

ISL Fantasy

Javi Hernandez (9.8cr)

Constant source of creativity to score and produce goal-scoring chances

Nikhil Poojary (3.6cr)

Can set up goals for their forwards

Daniel Chima Chukwu (5.8cr)

A lively figure for JFC at the tip of the attack

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Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.