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Kerala Blasters vs Bengaluru behind closed doors - a blessing in disguise?

04:33 GMT 11/12/2020
Manjappada Kerala Blasters
Kerala Blasters badly need a win - would they be able to get it in a big game without fans?

A soda sharbat from Palarivattom junction, followed by a Kochi Metro ride to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium junction and a short swim through the yellow sea to the designated stadium counter to get to the allocated seat. Aha, anthass

Kerala Blasters supporters would get it right away because they think about their matchday routines on all matchdays which are now in Goa due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Matchdays are not only about the 90 minutes of football that take place inside the stadium. It is much more than that, as both the West Block Blues and Manjappada clearly understand. And that is why the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) fixture between Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru, which is a rivalry that developed off the field through social media, will feel different. 

This fixture has been all about the rivalry between the two groups of supporters as on the field, Kerala Blasters haven't been able to match Bengaluru's quality. In the six matches played between the two teams, Blasters have only recorded one win which also was incidentally in the last fixture these two have played against each other.

Bartholomew Ogbeche scored twice to overcome Deshorn Brown's opener which had given Bengaluru the lead at the Kochi stadium back in February this year. Only 7,754 fans attended that game. 

If the rivalry is all about the fans, will a game behind-closed-doors several kilometres away from either Kochi or Bengaluru help Kerala Blasters? The story so far suggests that it may be of help more than harm for Kibu Vicuna's team.

Blasters are winless after four games - they have two draws and defeats. Vicuna badly needs a win and would love it if Gary Hooper finds his scoring boots. While it would be fantastic to have supporters inside the stadium for such big games, Blasters previously have not performed well under pressure and in front of their fans, especially in Kochi - they have gone months without a single win at home.

The Yellow Army, despite the strong backing on and off the pitch, have also been heavily criticised for their performances. Sometimes these criticisms have crossed the line and turned into abuses from fake profiles on social media. Several players have spoken about the issue and it is one of those things that fan clubs cannot be criticised for because there are so many supporters and it is difficult to micro-manage large fanbase. 

This has often put players - especially Indian footballers - under pressure when playing in front of their own fans and time and again, they have only been able to produce sub-par displays. It has gone on for too long and it can be argued that Vicuna's squad is stronger mentally - but are they? It'll take time to find out. But for now, playing against a difficult opponent like Bengaluru behind closed doors could be a boon rather than a bane.