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I-League: Upbeat Bharat FC ready for tough test at Royal Wahingdoh

Bharat FC travel to Shillong to take on Royal Wahingdoh in what will be a tough encounter for the team from Pune.

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A high-on-confidence Bharat FC side will look to set the record straight as they get ready to take on Royal Wahingdoh FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Saturday. The match against Royal Wahingdoh FC, promoted from the I-League second division this year, will be Bharat FC’s first return fixture of the season.

Bharat FC had squandered a 1-0 lead against Royal Wahingdoh FC, eventually losing the game 1-2 at the end of January this year. Bharat FC recorded a 1-0 win in their last Hero I-League fixture, when a Mehrajuddin Wadoo header gave the Lions all three points against Sporting Club de Goa.

Since then, Bharat FC have enjoyed a two-week break which saw head coach Stuart Watkiss fine-tune the team’s strategies. Royal Wahingdoh FC were consigned to a 1-0 defeat away to Pune FC in the last round.

The hosts currently occupy fourth place in the Hero I-League standings with 13 points from eight games. Bharat FC are at eighth place in the table having accumulated eight points from seven games.

The Lions travelled to Shillong on Thursday and underwent an intensive training session on Friday morning. Head coach Watkiss said that the team was shaping up well and that the two-week break had done his team a world of good.

“Everyone went away, spent some time with their families and recharged their batteries. Since we have been back, there has been a new intensity in training and I am enjoying that. All the boys are putting in lots of hard work and I am confident of taking home a positive result,” he said. 

Bharat FC have a full strength side to choose from with only Tomba Singh missing out due to an ankle injury. Arindam Bhattacharya returns from national duty after having been a part of India’s World Cup qualifiers squad. New signing Tapan Maity also finds a place for himself in the match-day squad.

23-year-old Simranjeet Singh and Bharat FC’s fourth foreign signing Omar Jarun feature in the match-day squad for the first time.

Watkiss said that he expected a tough, open game on Saturday afternoon. The 48-year-old also hinted that he had a measure of the opponents after having seen them in action over a few matches.

“They are a good side who are compact and keep their shape well. They play the 4-3-3 formation really well, but we come up with our own plans and I think we have a few ideas on how we can assert ourselves,” he said.

Steven Dias, the 31-year-old midfielder is confident that Bharat FC have finally found their stride and have managed to strike a great understanding within the team. “Since the beginning of the season, we have been held back a little because of the understanding between teammates which is integral on the field.” 

“However, since a few weeks now, that understanding seems to have blossomed really well. Everyone is confident of their teammates’ ability and you can see that we are playing refined football now,” he said.

Royal Wahingdoh FC head coach Santosh Kashyap said though recent results had not gone his side’s way, he was sure that a turnaround was around the corner. “We have been playing good football. Creating opportunities, stretching defenses and we know that we can get the results that we want. The players are enjoying playing in the I-League, they are expressing themselves well and that is a very encouraging sign,” he said.

Royal Wahingdoh FC have a few injury worries but coach Kashyap put up a brave face and said that the missing players would not really hamper his team’s setup or their direct and aggressive approach.

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