BENGALURU: The race for the top four spots in the Indian Super League is heating up. Just three points separate the top six teams in the competition. The clubs below that mark are not too far behind, which makes it a fascinating chase with the season having crossed the mid-way mark. So when Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC lock horns at the GMC Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Wednesday, the latter can take top spot with a victory while the Blues can inch closer to the play-offs spot with three points.
Clubs are expected to put their best feet forward for the remainder of the competition, but the circumstances are far from ideal due to Covid-induced breaks. Chennaiyin, who are currently fifth with 18 points, have not had much minutes in the training ground for the clash against their southern neighbours with players in isolation after one of them tested positive. Fielding a preferred playing XI under such circumstances is going to be difficult.
Bengaluru, meanwhile, are trying to find their feet after the recent Covid setback, something that had forced the squad to stay in isolation for 10 days or so. Having resumed training just last week, the players are understandably yet to attain the desired level of match-fitness, but managed a 1-1 draw against Goa in their last game.
"Covid is the only thing that can stop us from the top-four. We almost have no defenders left, and those who can play, we need to know who can play 30 minutes, 50 minutes or 80 minutes. We may have around 16-20 players available against Chennai, Eight to nine coming out of quarantine. But those that are ready to take the pitch will be giving their 100%," said Bengaluru coach Marco Pezzaiuoli.
To make matters worse, Bengaluru, who are eighth with 14 points, have injury issues too. Ashique Kuruniyan's (stiff quadricep) and Cleiton Silva's (knee) fate for the game will only be known at the last minute.
Chennaiyin, who are a compact side, come into this game confident after their come-from-behind win over NorthEast United FC. But head coach, Bozidar Bandovic, is wary of the Blues' threat, especially at set pieces.
"First positive from the game against NorthEast United is that we had chances and secondly, we turned the game by scoring two goals. That was a good effort, we showed character. It was a very good game for the team and for the players as we were losing but won in the end and that’s very important for us," Bandovic said. "Bengaluru are one of the best teams with good quality players in their squad. They are very dangerous on the offensive set pieces. We need to defend set pieces very well," he further added.