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I-League: Confident Bharat FC upbeat on eve of Sporting Clube de Goa clash

Bharat FC will take on Sporting Clube de Goa, looking to bounce back from their loss against Mumbai FC in the previous round of the I-League.

Subash Singh tries to put one past Harshad Meher during Bharat FC's official pre-match practice session

Increased attacking penetration coupled with a surge in commitment is what Bharat FC’s head coach Stuart Watkiss expects from his side as the Lions take on Sporting Club de Goa in a Hero I-League round 9 encounter at home in Pune. The match will kick-off at 7 pm at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi. 

Bharat FC went down to Mumbai FC in their last encounter at home, slipping to a 0-2 defeat on Friday. Before that, the Lions had recorded their first ever win in the I-League, recording a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Goan heavyweights, Salgaocar FC. Bharat FC are currently 10th on the 11-team Hero I-League table, having garnered five points from six games.

Bharat FC’s opponent’s on Wednesday, Sporting Club de Goa, occupy the last spot on the table. Sporting have three points from seven games and are the only team in the I-League to have not secured a win so far this season. 

Bharat FC underwent an intensive training session at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex on Tuesday morning and head coach Watkiss said that he expected his team to dust the defeat against Mumbai off and focus on the job at hand.

“We all know we did not play well against Mumbai FC. However, we cannot let that burden our minds. We know that we have got enough in the tank to get good results at home and I have told the lads just that. We have worked on a few things in training and I am hopeful that we can execute these things on the pitch on Wednesday night,” he said. 

Bharat FC will welcome back talismanic midfielder, Bobby Hassell, to the match-day squad while G Vignesh and Dharmaraj Ravanan return from a one-match suspension that caused them to miss the clash against Mumbai FC.

Coach Watkiss said that the trio’s return will give his side a welcome boost. “Bobby (Hassell), Vignesh and Ravanan are good players and play important roles in the team. The guys who stepped in for them during the last match have done a good job but I am happy that I will again have a full strength squad to choose from.” 

“Ravanan’s return helps us immensely because he has settled well with Gouramangi (Singh) in the center of our defense and we will be back with our first-choice pairing,” he said. 

Syed Rahim Nabi said that the defeat against Mumbai had served as a wake-up call to and he was confident of his teammates putting up an improved show against Sporting on Wednesday.

“We have had time to analyze our mistakes. The coach has explained to us where we went wrong against Mumbai. The boys were disappointed with the result and everyone is fired up to give a much better performance and repay the faith that the coach has placed in us,” he said.

Mateus Costa, the Sporting Club de Goa head coach said that he was looking forward to a challenging and exciting match.

“We have seen Bharat FC play and they look quite an organized team. We have made certain plans and I am confident that my team is up for the challenge,” he said.

Sporting played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Balewadi stadium in round 6 against Pune FC and Costa said that the experience of playing in Pune earlier in the season would come in handy for his side. 

Bharat FC’s Watkiss though is confident of his team’s chances, but stressed that his team needs to play more effective football. “We need to keep the ball, dictate the play. Against Mumbai, we had possession of the ball but we often gave it away before we could create a good opening.” 

“We need to stay focused on the job at hand. The team has trained well, there is a new energy in this team and I am sure Bharat FC will put in an enthusiastic performance tomorrow night,” he said.

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