MARGAO: Bengaluru FC will clash with powerhouse of Indian football ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) final at Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, on Saturday.
Bengaluru FC, who won the ISL title in the 2018-19 season, are looking to end the 2022-23 season on a memorable note following their failure to make it to the play-offs in the last two consecutive seasons. On the other hand, ATK Mohun Bagan are still chasing their first ISL title having entered the fray in 2020-21 season as ATK Mohun Bagan FC.
Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson emphasised on 'belief' as the main strength of his boys' remarkable turnaround to seal the play-off spot. He also added that the final is all about what transpires on the pitch although there is a bit of psychology at play.
“Both teams will be confident, but it will be basically about who earns the right on that pitch. Who wants it the most...who runs further than the opposition, who comes out on the top in every 50-50 challenge, who wants to be the hero and it will be one hero tomorrow night and if it has to be in BFC colours, we will have to give it everything that we have in our locker to achieve that. I am sure Juan (Ferrando, ATK MB head coach) will be saying exactly the same to his team,” said the English gaffer.
Ferrando is wary of the opponents especially their rise from precarious position and has seen the Blues peak at the right stage. “In the last few games, they (Bengaluru FC) have been very good and have played confidently. On the field, they look like a proper team. It will be very important to control this game from the start. The focus, as always, is on our team, and we have faith in our plan,” said Ferrando.
Bengaluru FC have employed Indian football legend Sunil Chhetri in an ‘impact substitute’ role with tremendous success. And it will be interesting to see if coach Grayson continues the same tactics or surprises the opposition in the title clash. However if it is an unchanged XI in the final, then the experienced Roy Krishna and find-of-the season youngster Sivasakthi Narayanan would be donning the forward role.
On the other hand, ATK Mohun Began have looked compact in their defensive setup where they conceded just 17 goals all season. That makes the Mariners the second-best defensive team in the ISL after Hyderabad FC.
Given the make up of the teams and their playing styles, not to forget their intense rivalry over the last decade right from their I-League days where it was newly-formed BFC playing India's oldest club Mohun Bagan, the stakes are high for Saturday night blockbuster of a final.
Sunil Chhetri, 38, however, played down the battles from the past and also brushed aside the anticipation of a big number of ATK Mohun Bagan fans turning up for the final. “We just want to win this trophy. We keep all the noise about the rivalry away. We will go there and be a good unit, like we have been doing for the past 11 matches,” he said.