It’s the Southern derby tonight in the Indian Super League (ISL) as Kerala Blasters host Bengaluru FC at the GMC stadium in Bambolim. The Blues ran out comfortable 4-2 winners in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. However, while they are on a wretched run currently, one wouldn’t expect this one to be a cakewalk for the Tuskers either.
Kibu Vicuna’s men have had a largely disappointing campaign so far. They’ve lost important players to other teams, had injuries and have looked like a side bereft of ideas going forward for major parts of the season. Ahead of the season, fans had expected Sahal Abdul Samad and foreign import Gary Hooper to strike up a lethal combination in the attacking third. But a loss in form for both has meant that they have had to play with the handbrake on. Jordan Murray has been the only one who has looked threatening upfront, but the service provided to him so far has mostly been restricted to long balls.
The Tuskers have dropped 10 points from winning positions this season, the most by any team. This was the case in their last match against SC East Bengal too when they conceded an injury-time equalizer. Having conceded 20 goals as well as five penalties this season, they have the worst defensive record in the division. Their defensive frailty will be a huge concern going into tonight’s game and although Bengaluru have lost four out of their last five, the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Cleiton Silva should still be a handful, especially from set-pieces.
As far as their attack is concerned, there isn’t much to write home about in that aspect either. The introduction of Murray has made a difference but they are still missing that creative spark in midfield. Curiously, Samad was shifted to the right against East Bengal and he came up with an honest and hardworking performance that won him the player of the match award. One could use that as an example and argue that they have turned a corner in the last two games but lying at 10th in the table, they have to find ways to be more ruthless in front of goal.
Vicuna has visibly worked towards making his side more of a threat from counter-attacks but that has come at the cost of their passing efficiency. However, they don’t seem to be pressing high either, something that has to change if they want to turn their season around. With just nine games to play though, it is difficult to imagine them adding to their two clean sheets and coming up with the goods at the other end of the pitch consistently.