ISL 2023-24: Race for playoff spots intensify with rejuvenated Jamshedpur FC hosting Bengaluru FC

Jamshedpur, Feb 10 (IANS) With the playoff spots still up for grabs, the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 looks set to witness another nail-biting clash when Bengaluru FC travel to take on Jamshedpur FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex here on Sunday.

Some teams get on a sudden positive run of things upon the arrival of a new head coach, but the momentum that the Red Miners find themselves in currently is truly distinct and remarkable. Their improvement in performance under

the tutelage of Khalid Jamil was visible in the Kalinga Super Cup, where they arguably beat all odds to make it to the semifinal. They resumed the ISL campaign sluggishly, conceding a lead to settle for a 1-1 draw against NorthEast United FC. However, it was their second-half comeback by three goals that saw them beat Mumbai City FC 3-2 that made all heads turn.

The Islanders were taken aback by the energy and enthusiasm that Jamshedpur FC approached the second half on an away turf. They must be taking a lot of confidence from that performance at home against the Blues, who bounced back to winning ways with a comfortable 1-0 win over their southern rivals Chennaiyin FC.

The scoreline might suggest otherwise, but the Gerard Zaragoza-coached side was in control of the proceedings throughout the 90 minutes or so. They created chances aplenty and gave away few of them, a pattern that the team would be hoping to see a repeat of against Jamshedpur FC. Zaragoza will want his forwards to put more chances to bed though, and whether they have improved on the finishing bit of things will be closely monitored in the coming clash.

Not many teams manage to overcome a two-goal deficit at the home of Mumbai City FC, and Jamil must be credited for optimising the strength of the squad at his disposal. His next task must be to blend in a sense of consistency within the team, so that they can produce such impressive results regularly. The previous game between the two sides had resulted in a 1-0 win for the Blues, with Javi Hernandez converting a penalty at the brink of half-time.

Jamshedpur FC does not boast of a positive record against Bengaluru FC lately, having lost each of their previous four games against the Blues. Further, the team has not been in the best of touch on their home turf either, being winless in their previous five ISL fixtures at the JRD Tata Sports Complex. A distinct feature of the Jamshedpur FC gameplay has been their tendency to commit fouls, making 12.6 of them on average in each match, which is the highest amongst all teams this season.

Jamshedpur FC has appeared to be more lethal moving forward since Jamil came on board. Imran Khan has been sharp from the flank and Jeremy Manzorro has been equally proficient delivering sharp passes into the final third. TP Rehenesh has been solid between the posts, thwarting the waves of attacks the opposition unleashes upon him. The head coach will want all his players from the back to the front to be at the top of their game to hold a promising-looking Bengaluru FC unit.

Zaragoza must be pleased with the clean sheet that Bengaluru FC kept in the last game, as the club invested heavily in strengthening their defence in the January transfer window. The duo of Nikhil Poojary and Chinglensana Singh add impressive sharpness to the back, and it was in fact Poojary’s industriousness moving forward that helped them produce the move that led to the winner by Ryan Williams against Chennaiyin FC.

A win here will help Bengaluru FC secure their outright most consecutive victories against a single opposition in ISL history, having won four successive games against Jamshedpur FC. The Blues will want to address some concerns at the back, having given away goals in each of their last seven away matches.

This has not been the best of the seasons in the ISL for them, which is reflected in the 14 points that they have garnered after 14 games, i.e. the least that the Blues have ever gotten at this stage of the competition.

Moreover, the 22 goals they have conceded is their highest-ever tally after 14 matches of any ISL season, and these are the loopholes they must look to look after in the next eight encounters.

These are the areas that Bengaluru FC should look to double down upon. Hernandez and Chhetri joined hands for some unique set-piece routines that unfortunately for them could not be converted against Chennaiyin FC, but similar efforts against Jamshedpur FC with slightly better efficiency could reap rich dividends for them.



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