Southern giants Bengaluru and Kerala clash as Hero ISL resumes
Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 returns with a bang after the international break with Bengaluru FC welcoming Kerala Blasters FC to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday. Needless to say, both points and pride will be at stake as the two southern rivals lock horns for the first time this season. The Blues, of course, will be confident about getting another three points after a win in their last outing in the league. Kerala, on the other hand, will be looking to return to winning ways having failed to register a victory in their last three games.
After a slow start to the campaign, which saw them register three back-to-back draws, Bengaluru got their season up and running in the last game thanks to a convincing 3-0 win over Chennaiyin FC. The defending champions are unbeaten this season with six points from four games and currently find themselves just outside the top four. They will back themselves to get another win against Kerala come Saturday as they look to keep their unbeaten record against the Blasters intact.
Carles Cuadrat’s men have been defensively sound so far and have conceded just once in four games, making them the league’s tightest backline. Juanan and Rahul Bheke have been solid at the heart of their defence and will fancy their chances of keeping another clean sheet when coming up against the Blasters. That said, perhaps the biggest boost for Bengaluru is the presence of Erik Paartalu at the center of the park.
The towering Australian returned to the side in Bengaluru’s last game and didn’t waste any time in showing his importance to the team with a goal and an assist. He’s aerial ability and tenacity in midfield makes him a key player for the hosts. Not only does he contribute himself, Paartalu’s presence on the pitch also seems to extract the best out of Dimas Delgado and Raphael Augusto in midfield. Up front, Sunil Chhetri – who was on the scoresheet in the last game – will spearhead the attack alongside Bengaluru’s pacey wideman Udanta Singh and the ever-reliable Raphael Augusto operating as the link between midfield and attack.
Eelco Schattorie will be eager for Kerala’s first win since the opening day of the season, but that’s easier said than done, especially against a team they’ve never beaten before. With that in mind, it must be noted that despite losing three of their four games against Bengaluru, Kerala could well have taken something from most of those encounters with the finest of margins often deciding the eventual winner.
Saturday’s clash between the two is likely to be no different with both teams looking to build some momentum. Kerala will be hoping their first choice centre-back Gianni Zuiverloon as well as their midfield maestro Mario Arques can return to full fitness. Sergio Cidoncha and Mouhamadou Gning will be entrusted to marshal the midfield, while the likes of Sahal Abdul Samad, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni and Rahul KP will look to provide a creative thrust. Jairo Rodrigues, however, is certain to miss out with an injury.
Leading the line for Kerala will be their talisman Bartholomew Ogbeche, who wasn’t fit to start Kerala’s last game due to illness and will be raring to return to the pitch. Ogbeche has never managed to find the back of the net against Bengaluru, which is something he’ll be eager to set straight. The ace striker has two goals to his name this season but is without one in his last three outings.
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Nishu Kumar, Ashique Kuruniyan, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Raphael Augusto, Dimas Delgado, Udanta Singh, Erik Paartalu, Sunil Chhetri
Kerala Blasters FC: TP Rehenesh (GK), Mohamad Rakip, Raju Gaikwad, Mouhamadou Gning, Jessel Carneiro, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Sergio Cidoncha, Jeakson Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Rahul KP
DID YOU KNOW?
- Kerala Blasters are yet to win a match against Bengaluru FC having met on four occasions, losing thrice and drawing the other.
- Bengaluru FC have conceded just 1 goal so far and have kept three clean sheets – the most by a side this season.
- Bengaluru FC are yet to concede a goal from open play this season.
Which ace striker will make their presence felt in the tie?
- Sunil Chhetri
- Bartholomew Ogbeche
Leave your choice in the comments below:
Live broadcast schedule:
Hero ISL 2019-20 Match 21: Bengaluru FC vs Kerala Blasters FC
Time: 7:30 PM onwards, November 23
Channels: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Hotstar and Jio TV