I-League: Westwood calls for focus as Bengaluru FC face desperate Dempo
Bengaluru: Ashley Westwood drove home the need for his Bengaluru FC side to stay focused as they take on Dempo SC in a crucial I-League game at the Nehru Stadium, in Goa, on Saturday. The reigning champions are determined to retain their title.
One-half of a two-horse race to the title, the Blues are on 35 points from 18 games and a win against the Goa club would put them in a good position before the virtual final against Mohun Bagan, who are on the same points and host Sporting Clube de Goa in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Irrespective of what either of Bengaluru or Bagan do tomorrow, one of the closest title races in I-League history will be decided when the two teams face-off at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on May 31. But while permutations and combinations may be many, all Westwood will look for is a solid, disciplined performance when his boys take the pitch at 7 pm.
Though Bengaluru have never been beaten by Dempo in all competitions, the fact that they are battling to beat the drop makes them a completely different opposition altogether and the gaffer refused to look at the fixture as one where predictions could be easy.
"There's no way we are taking anything for granted. This is the I-League and any team can beat another on a given day. Dempo have arguably the best Indian players. It was only 5 months ago where they were contesting the Federation Cup final against us after stringing together some good performances. If we don't maintain our level of discipline we won't win the game, simple as that," said Westwood while addressing the press on the eve of the game.
The Blues are faced with a daunting task of playing three important games in eight days and Westwood felt that all the hard work his boys have put in through the season, will come down to these three games.
"We play our AFC Cup pre-quarterfinal in Hong Kong on Tuesday between these two important I-League games and we need stay focused and grounded because as much as we can win the League, we can also lose it over the next three matches."
The hosts, who have been hit with injuries through the season, will be without three of their foreign players in Haroon Amiri, Callum Angus and Carlos Hernandez. Australian striker, Tolgay Ozbey, will, however, be up for selection.
Bengaluru have a sole setback in the absence of John Johnson who sits out serving a one-game suspension but Westwood chose to look at it as a chance for someone else to step up with a good performance in a key fixture.
The two teams met in the season opener that ended in a goalless draw after Sunil Chhetri saw his penalty saved. But they have, since then, taken different directions as the season progressed and now stand at a pivotal moment for different reasons. The game will be telecast live on Ten Action.