Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru FC will look to qualify for its maiden final of the Durand Cup football tournament as it faces Indian Super League champion Hyderabad FC in the second semifinals here on Thursday.
The Blues will seek to erase memories of their last year’s semi-final defeat when they had suffered a 6-7 defeat to eventual champions FC Goa in sudden death here.
There is little to choose between the two teams, but a battle of strikers is on the cards in the marquee clash.
Hyderabad did look flawless till Army Red beat it in an inconsequential final group league match and then Rajasthan United FC also gave it a stiff challenge in the quarterfinals, before succumbing to its overall quality.
BFC too has had stops and starts in its campaign and scraped through a 10-man Odisha FC in the quarterfinals, with the last touch winner from Roy Krishna following a monumental blunder by the Juggernaut’s keeper in the dying seconds.
Both teams have also scored an identical 11 goals in the five games so far with HFC conceding three, while BFC has let in five.
What gives HFC the slight edge is that it has had seven scorers so far with Bart Ogbeche leading the lines with five strikes.
The Blues, on the other hand, have majorly relied on their striking trio of Chhetri (3), Krishna (3) and the pair’s understudy Siva Sakthi (4) for their goals.
Faisal is the only other BFC player to have scored in the tournament, and both Siva and Faisal have been preferred as substitutes thus far by coach Simon Grayson.
HFC coach Manolo Marquez was forthcoming in the pre-match press conference, saying, “I think if we have to tell something about them then that is that they signed better players in attack this year. They also have very good players from their academy.
“They’re a very strong team physically. If you remember both games of last season we were very similar. We played better than them in the first half with our style and they played better than us in the second half with their style. We have to try to play with our style.” Bengaluru coach Simon Grayson also spoke about the familiarity between the two sides, saying, “It’s going to be a tough game. We have to defend well and we have to score. HFC is a good side. But we are ready. Most of our players know the weakness and strong points of HFC.
“So we know what we have to do and we respect the opposition. Tomorrow we want to score more goals than HFC. Play balanced football and try to win the game.”
Apart from the battle between BFC’s strike trio and HFC’s Bart Ogbeche, Thursday’s match could be a clash of two quality units with players like Akash Mishra and Suresh Wangjam and others on both sides capable of turning a big game.
It promises to be an exciting game of football with the big Durand Cup final prize up for grabs