Bengaluru FC head coach Gerard Zaragoza has expressed caution regarding Punjab FC's strengths ahead of their upcoming clash in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.

Both teams currently reside in the bottom half of the ISL standings and are keen on improving their positions in the second half of the season. Despite Punjab FC securing only one win in 12 games this season, they find themselves just three points behind Bengaluru FC, who have managed two wins in 12 matches.

The last encounter between these two sides in November at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw. Despite Punjab FC leading by two goals within 30 minutes, Bengaluru FC, under former head coach Simon Grayson, staged a comeback to salvage a point. Now, with Zaragoza at the helm, Bengaluru FC aims to avoid a similar situation as they travel to New Delhi to face the Shers.

Zaragoza emphasised the need to control the game against Punjab FC, noting their proficiency in punishing opponents who fail to do so.

“It’s something I don't want to happen (again). They received three goals here at (our) home. This cannot happen and (one) never knows (what will happen) in football. The problem with Punjab FC is that if you do not control the game, they will punish you. They know how to run and how to counterattack. We need to try to control the game, with and without the ball. And I expect us not to concede three goals, (but) you never know what will happen in football,” Zaragoza said in the post-match press conference.

Bengaluru FC has accumulated fewer points than the number of games played this season (12). However, since Zaragoza assumed leadership in December, the team has remained undefeated in the league. They secured a notable 1-0 victory against Jamshedpur FC in Zaragoza's debut as the head coach of Bengaluru FC. Subsequently, they showcased resilience by securing a draw against NorthEast United FC in the following game. These positive developments serve as encouraging signs for the Blues as they seek to make a strong comeback in the second half of the season.

During the January transfer window, Bengaluru FC bolstered their squad by bringing in forward Oliver Drost, in addition to signing experienced players Nikhil Poojary and Chinglensana Singh from Hyderabad FC. Zaragoza expressed confidence in the team's capability to secure a spot in the playoffs and urged fans to remain steadfast in their support.

“For sure (we can push for the playoffs). We need to fight for it and the supporters need to help us. They are very important for us. They must come here and enjoy as they do and we will bring together good football and together, we can fight for this,” the Spaniard said. 

Zaragoza also revealed that Keziah Veendorp is nursing an injury and that he expects him to be ready in a couple of weeks. 

I want to win a lot of trophies with Bengaluru FC: Chinglensana Singh

The head coach of Bengaluru FC was accompanied by the latest addition to the team, Chinglensana Singh, who recently committed to a long-term contract with the Blues, extending until the conclusion of the 2028-29 season.

Singh, an adept centre-back, gained prominence for his contributions at Hyderabad FC, notably assisting the team in clinching the ISL Cup during the 2021-22 season. Over the last two seasons, he played a pivotal role in the Hyderabad FC squad, contributing significantly to their runner-up finish in the league standings.

Opening up about his decision behind joining Bengaluru FC, Singh said: “The club presented a beautiful project and with Gerard Zaragoza coming in, with his style, he’s a Spanish coach; there’s a certain way he wants to play. For me, I believe in that system and that was attractive to me. Also for me as a player, what suits my style, how I can improve and grow as a footballer is important whenever I decide to move to a new club. And BFC, I don't need to speak much because we all know what a great club it is. The team has achieved many trophies in the last 10-12 years. I want to be a part of that. I want to win a lot of trophies and create good and amazing moments with the club. That is why I am here.” 

Singh is set to encounter intense competition for a spot in the starting eleven, contending with fellow centre-backs Aleksandar Jovanovic and Slavko Damjanovic, both of whom have formed a central defensive partnership for the majority of the league season.

Despite the stiff competition, Bengaluru FC fans will anticipate Singh's swift integration into the team and a strong performance at his new club, drawing inspiration from his successful stint at Hyderabad FC. As the league stages near their conclusion, with just 10 games remaining, Singh emphasised his objective of approaching each game individually and adhering to Zaragoza's coaching philosophy.

“Game by game, we want to win matches. Of course, the club and the coach are ambitious. We all are ambitious. We believe in the (head coach’s) style of play and for sure good results will come. Of course, (it’s) no pressure for any of us. We will try to do what the coach wants and how to play the way he wants to play. We’re learning that and adapting quickly. I'm sure there will be a lot of good things for us to witness on game days,” he expressed.