Bengaluru vs Kerala Blasters: Knockout 1- Preview and Prediction
Bengaluru vs Kerala Blasters: Preview, Current Form, Team News, Predicted XI, Head-to-Head record, and Prediction
The awaited moment is finally here, the league stage campaign of the 2022-23 Indian Super League is over and the caravan will be now heading towards the battlefield of the playoffs.
As a reward for finishing ahead of their counterparts in the league standings, the West Block Blues have got the hosting status for this clash which will be played at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. The high-profile footballing action of the first knockout fixture between Bengaluru and Kerala Blasters will take place this Friday.
The Blues have finally made it to the knockout stages of the Indian top-flight league after failing to achieve it in the previous two consecutive attempts. The Karnataka-based outfit unexpectedly finished four in the final league standings despite roaming in the bottom half of the table for the majority of the season.
The West Block Blues are counting on the Scottish gaffer Simon Grayson and the boys to bring back the glory days of Bengaluru and replicate the heroics of Durand Cup glory.
Ivan Vukomanovic missed out on the ISL glory from the shortest distance in the previous season however, the Serbian head coach is back with yet another claim on the prestigious silverware. This is going to be the fourth playoff appearance for the Tuskers who have made it to the Grand Finale on each and every occasion of their qualification.
The three consecutive losing outcomes in their final league fixtures daunted Kerala’s contention to finish in the Top 3 as they eventually ended up in the fifth position behind the close competitors ATK Mohan Bagan and Bengaluru.
Bengaluru has not dropped a single point in the year 2023 and is thriving on a winning run of eight successive ISL games. Their undefeated streak has received some serious threats from the heavyweights ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City however, Grayson had plans ready for each and every opponent and thrashed them down on their way to the playoffs.
They faced Goa in the final league fixture of the season where we witnessed the elimination of the Gaurs at the hands of the Karnataka Blues who registered a thumping 3-1 triumph.
On the other hand, Kerala Blasters seems to have completely lost their rhythm in recent times after suffering three consecutive defeats to end the league campaign. The Blasters ended up on the losing side of a 1-0 outing with the defending champions Hyderabad at their home ground on Sunday.
It was the third instance in the last five Kerala Blasters’ fixtures where the three-time runners-up could not manage to break the goal deadlock.
These two heavyweights have battled out each other 12 times in the Indian top-flight football league since their first encounter in the 2017-18 edition. The Karnataka-based outfit has thoroughly dominated this head-to-head record with 7 wins while the number of victories (2) registered by the Tuskers in the Southern Derby is even less than the draw outcomes (3).
The downfall of the Kochi-based club which played two out of the first three ISL finals started right after Bengaluru’s promotion to the league hence they have never faced each other in the playoff stages.
The first encounter of the season was a high-scoring contest played at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium of Kochi where the home side trampled down the Blues on a final scoreline of 3-2. However, the 2018-19 edition winners staged a sweet revenge for their earlier defeat in the returning fixture and edged past the visitors by 1-0 at the BFC fortress. It was the 35-year-old Fijian striker Roy Krishna whose 32nd-minute strike with the assistance of Javi Hernandez sealed the three crucial points for Bengaluru against the neighborhood rivals.
Simon Grayson made certain changes in his starting XI for the Goa clash and will have to switch back to his strength of a 3-4-1-2 formation. The likes of Sandesh Jhingan and Javi Hernandez are expected to return to the starting XI after getting a well-deserved rest in the previous match. Meanwhile, the legendary Sunil Chhetri is likely to be demoted on the bench after the inclusion of Javi to make up an attacking trio with Sivashakthi and Krishna.
The home-grown Kerala assailant Rahul KP will be returning to action after serving a one-match suspension for picking up a red card against ATK Mohun Bagan. The Croatian central defender Marko Leskovic has also timed his recovery from back injury quite well and will be seen commanding the Blasters’ central defense along with Hormipam Ruivah. Ayush Adhikari and Vibin Mohanan had impressive maiden start of the season however, it is quite difficult to see both starting such a high-voltage fixture for the Tuskers.
Predicted Starting XIs
Bengaluru (3-4-1-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Alan Costa, Sandesh Jhingan, Parag Shrivas; Prabir Das, Suresh Wangjam, Rohit Kumar, Naorem Roshan Singh; Javi Hernandez; Sivashakthi Narayanan, Roy Krishna
Kerala Blasters (4-2-3-1): Prabhsukhan Gill; Nishu Kumar, Hormipam Ruivah, Marko Leskovic, Jessel Carneiro; Jeakson Singh, Ivan Kalyuzhnyi; Sahal Abdul Samad, Adrian Luna, Rahul KP; Dimitrios Diamantakos
It’s been almost a month since the Blues have moved out of their fortress as all three of their league games were home fixtures. The Karnataka-based outfit is now eying the fourth successive win on the home turf while the prediction odds are also standing in their favor after having such a dominant recent home record.
Kerala Blasters’ current form diminishes their chances to emerge victorious in the knockout contest. However, history is the prime witness of what happens when the Yellow Tuskers from God’s own country turn up for an ISL playoffs fixture as underdogs.