Ashley Westwood's men will face the defending champions in their penultimate home fixture of the season.Bengaluru FC will try to extend their slender lead in the points table when they face Churchill Brothers in an I-League encounter on Saturday evening.
The southern outfit, who have been sitting in the pole position for quite some time now, have suffered a drop in form after the winter break. Besides exiting the Federation Cup from the group stage, Ashley Westwood's men have been able to garner only a single win in their last four I-League clashes.
Their performances on the road have been pretty ordinary and the Blues will look to take full advantage of their penultimate home tie of the season. The team has lost only once in their 10 home matches and will be desperate to notch up a win in order to strengthen their title bid.
Ashley Westwood, the coach of the side sounded confident that the team will bounce back from their 2-3 defeat last weekend against bottom-placed Rangdajied United.
"This has, by far, been the most competitive season of the I-League ever and there’s no guarantee of any result. There have been ups and down and the trend will continue. On current form, Churchill Brothers aren’t a side battling relegation and it’s going to be a good game," he remarked.
Bengaluru midfielder Malemnganba Meitei has returned to training after a surgery and the gaffer is delighted with the news.
"We even have winger Malemnganba Meitei, who was out for four months, back in the reckoning and he’s been looking sharp at training. A player back from injury is as good as a new signing," he added.
Sunil Chhetri, the skipper of the side was phenomenal in India's recent clash with Bangladesh, scoring a brace and he is now back to contribute in his club's cause.
"It’s neck and neck now. We are at a very crucial juncture but we back ourselves at home. It’s going to be a very good game," said the skipper.
Talking of the travellers, the Red Machines are enjoying a 9-match unbeaten streak in the domestic competitions and will certainly look to stretch that form. However, the team is fresh from a 0-2 drubbing in an AFC Cup away match against Indonesia's Persipura Jayapura and have been hit by a few injury issues as well. Lalit Thapa, the first-choice custodian is out with an injury, giving Arindam Bhattacharya a rare start between the sticks.
Lenny Rodrigues, the India international has also picked up an injury in the international friendly and remains a doubtful starter. The most important absentee, however, will be Cristian Lagos as the Costa Rican striker has not travelled with the team due to personal reasons.
When asked whether Rangdajied's surprise victory against Bengaluru last weekend would give his side a boost in confidence, Mariano Dias, the coach of Churchill Brothers, didn't think along the same lines.
"Not exactly. We have to have confidence in ourselves. Because Rangdajied have defeated them at home, Bengaluru will come all out to cover up for their defeat, which will be difficult for us," he told Goal after the pre-match practice.
Though the side have two continental fixtures coming up in the next two weeks, the coach stressed the focus of the team is very much on the I-League.
"We have to win. No other option as we have to move away from the relegation zone," he concluded.
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