Bengaluru FC has developed a rivalry with Kochi-based Kerala Blasters FC despite switching from I-League to Indian Super League last season. Both the southern outfits have arguably the largest and most passionate fan base and that alone makes the clash a spicy affair.
In the first leg on Monday (November 5), Kerala Blasters will be hosting Bengaluru FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. The Indian Super League match has been scheduled at 7.30 pm and Star Sports will stream the match on TV while online stream will be available on Hotstar and Jio TV.
What makes the Kerala Blasters FC vs Bengaluru FC match a must-watch? We have listed out the top 5 talking points.
1. The 'real' South Indian derby
The matches between Kerala Blasters FC against Chennayin FC and Bengaluru FC against Chennayin FC are often considered as the southern derby while Kerala Blasters vs Bengaluru FC match is regarded as the 'real' south derby among the fans.
The two sides have clashed only twice so far and Kerala Blasters have miserably failed in both the occasions. Last season, when Bengaluru FC came to Kochi on the eve of New Year, they dominated the game with three goals. This was the biggest home defeat for Kerala last year. Late goals sealed a win for Bengaluru FC over the Blasters when the later visited Bengaluru in February.
Kerala Blasters is in a pursuit to break to the poor show against Bengaluru FC while the visitors want to reaffirm their dominance. That confirms a valiant clash at Kochi.
2. The most passionate fans
Both Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC boast of most passionate and vocal fans in the league. The fan group of Blasters, Manjappada, is known for turning out in large numbers making the home stadium a sea of yellow, while Bengaluru FC's West Block Blues are known for its skilful banners and banter in addition to the turnout.
The match in Kanteerava stadium last year was tense with both the fan groups locking horns in terms of numbers, banter, banners and of course with noise. Can the Blues withstand stand the pressure from away stadium at Kochi?
3. Bengaluru FC in fine form
What gives Bengaluru FC an edge over Kerala Blasters is their impeccable form which is the continuation of last season. Even though only four matches have been played so far, Bengaluru FC is already in top four in the table (with three wins) and a win at Kochi will take them to the top while all the other teams have already played five games. The recent form of Bengaluru confirms that three points at Kochi is not a herculean task.
Despite losing Subhasish Bose and John Johnson in the transfer window, Bengaluru's defence is still strong with Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Juanan and Albert Serran. The Blues' famed attacking duo of Sunil Chhetri and Miku have looked as dangerous as ever, with both scoring three goals each in the current season. Miku, in particular, will be the person of interest in the match considering the Venezuelan has made it a habit to score in away matches.
4. Pumped up Kerala Blasters
Kerala Blasters had a lacklustre ISL season 4 while in season 5, they look lethal with young guns. The playing style of Kerala Blasters has been developed immensely under David James while four draws on the trot after the first against ATK is a cause for concern.
Unlike the last season with misfiring attacking department, forward players like Matej Poplatnik, Slavisla Stojanovic, Halicharan Narzary and CK Vineeth seem to have gelled well and all of them have registered their names on the score sheet.
Seiminlen Doungel has looked like a creative force linking up the midfield with the attack. In their last match against FC Pune City, the men in yellow had a whopping 27 shots at goal and that explains that Blasters are not what they were in the last season.
Under James, Kerala has been playing attacking football while the defence needs to be more vigilant as Bengaluru is known for counter-attacking football. In their last eleven matches at home, the Blasters have managed to win only two - a record the team will be desperate to improve over the course of this season, preferably starting with the match against Bengaluru.
5. CK Vineeth and Rino Anto – Face to face
CK Vineeth and Rino Anto, the Malayali footballers are one of the best friends in Indian football having played together with Bengaluru FC in I-League and Kerala Blasters in ISL. Rino Anto, who switched to Kerala last year, has moved back to Bengaluru FC for the new season while Vineeth is one of the key attackers of Blasters.
While Vineeth is expected to find a place in the starting XI of Blasters, it is doubtful about the presence of Anto in Bengaluru's defence. If Anto plays, how will the friends play against each other? It will be a highlight of the match.