ISL 2017-18: Bengaluru FC's Albert Roca - Footballers live for rivalries, helps the sport grow

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The Spaniard urged both Bengaluru and Kerala Blasters' fans to enjoy football in the right spirit and avoid unpleasant incidents...

Having already qualified for the Indian Super League (ISL) IV playoffs with three games to go, Bengaluru FC now welcome Kerala Blasters for the last game of their regular season at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Thursday.

With a top-of-the-table finish confirmed for the side that have already accumulated 37 points from 17 games, head coach Albert Roca will have the chance to test his bench strength, but only out of compulsion.
"There are some important players that are out of this game for me. My two central defenders (John Johnson and Juanan) are suspended, as both accumulated four yellow cards, so they cannot play tomorrow. We have to prepare 100% for the playoffs, but tomorrow's (Thursday) game is just as important," he said.

"It's the last game of the league but we need to keep winning because that is important. We want to be strong going into the playoffs and there is only one way to do that - to do our job as good as possible.

"We’ve known for a while now that we’re through to the semifinal, but that hasn’t stopped us from putting on a show, which I’m very happy about. We’ll be going out there wanting the victory, and I’m sure that Kerala Blasters will bring the fight to us with what is at stake for them, which makes for a very interesting game of football," added the former FC Barcelona assistant manager.

The match-up between the two sides and clashes between their respective fanbases has only intensified ever since the JSW Steel-owned outfit's 3-1 victory in Kochi earlier this season. The Spaniard, however, wanted the spirit of the game to prevail.

He commented, "I would love to see a good game and for the fans to enjoy the show. That's the most important thing. As footballers, they live for rivalries and it helps the sport to grow. I want to see both fans shouting loud and supporting the team and a healthy competition on the pitch because that's the most important thing in any sport.

"The tension should begin and end in the stands and I urge the fans to keep things healthy. I want all the fans to enjoy the game and get home safe. I'm sure the Kerala Blasters coach would say the same thing. It's important to ensure that the show is at a high standard in all aspects."

The two-time ISL finalists Kerala Blasters remain at the mercy of other results barring a win of their own in the Bengaluru match to qualify for the knock-outs. The first instalment of this fixture on New Year's Eve resulted in the axing of Rene Meulensteen and David James, who took over since has somewhat steadied the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side's ship with five wins from his ten games.

Roca went on the compliment the former England goalkeeper. " The new coach has brought with him a philosophy that has seen this side perform a lot better and we know what they’re capable of. It’s no doubt that my players will have to be at their best to get a result tomorrow," said Roca.

"We had a pre-season in Spain and it's been a longer season for us than most other clubs. We had the 2017 AFC Cup, now the ISL and soon the Super Cup and then the Group Stages of the next AFC Cup. This is how it is at every successful football club. Everyone is concerned because we've worked hard to get there.

"I know that my boys will give everything they can I have a lot of respect for the other teams that have qualified for the playoffs and will not be taking them lightly," concluded Roca, speaking on the eve of the game.

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