Bengaluru FC will face Mumbai City FC today in the Durand Cup final. Ahead of the game, the Blues’ head coach Simon Grayson and captain Sunil Chhetri attended the pre-match press conference. Below are the excerpts of their interaction ahead of the big game tomorrow.
Coach Simon spoke on the team’s work in the pre-season till now and where he sees the squad ahead of the ISL 22/23 season.
“We’ve had nearly eight weeks of pre-season and we’ve combined a lot of fitness work and played different systems. In the Durand Cup, we’ve progressed as we’ve gone along and I think up until the other night against Hyderabad, we weren’t tested much defensively. We showed a lot of good character to defend the 18-yard-box against a very strong team.
“We were disappointed with the way we played in possession and we gave the ball away way too cheaply and too often. But sometimes in games, we have to make sure to do the ugly side of things and defend well and we did that. I was pleased with that aspect.”
The gaffer assessed the Durand Cup campaign and spoke about the pros and cons of their play.
“We’re six games into the tournament, won four and drawn two; so we’re unbeaten and more than happy with that. We’ve got to keep working on every element of our squad. I’m very pleased that we reached the final because that was our intention. In terms of how we set up to play, we want to defend as a team and make sure we give no opportunities, but in possession of the ball, we have to take care of it and get better service to our strikers and midfield.”
The mastermind shared his views on the Islanders ahead of the all-important Durand Cup final.
“Mumbai City FC are a very good team with strong players who can hurt you in certain areas of the pitch. They are a team with some very talented players and fast players. Greg Stewart was the outstanding player in the League last year, but they’re not a one-man team. They play a possession-based style of football, so it’s a different type of test.
“We respect every team and player that we’ve faced in the Durand Cup, but we’ve got to do whatever we can to stop the opposition and give them a hard game. We’ve got to give them a lot to think about when we’re attacking as well. We have a lot of respect for Mumbai and what they can do, but again, we continue to concentrate on our process.”
Simon shed light on the areas where the team needs to work upon and requires improvement.
“We want to get the balance right by attacking and being a little more careful with the ball, creating more chances for our attackers. Whether it’s a cagey game or not, we’ve got to make sure we do both elements of the game better for this game, and for the rest of the season as well, when the Indian Super League begins.”
“We’re working on different combinations in terms of players, but you saw the understanding between Prabir and Roy the other night. It was a good pass from Jayesh out to Prabir, and he sent the cross in with quality. All the players are a part of this squad, and they will all play an important role in the team. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Prabir, Udanta, Leon, Roshan, Faisal, or any of the other players.”
Thoughts on playing the Durand Cup final?
“I think in any final if you can win it playing whatever style, you would take that option. I think Mumbai would do that as well. I’ve been in finals back in England where we’ve had far fewer possession stats, but we’ve won and that’s all that matters in football. Having said that, we want to get the right combination of being good defensively and not allowing opportunities to the opposition.
Captain Sunil Chhetri also attended the press conference and answered some of the questions thrown at him by the media.
Thoughts on the motivation for the team ahead of the Durand Cup final?
“We’re motivated enough as a team because of the way we’ve progressed as a team going into the final. That I have not won it or that the team hasn’t been to a Durand Cup final is secondary. We want to treat this as another game and apply ourselves in the best way. Having played so many games and finals in my career, I have learned to play the game and not the occasion.
“We’re trying our best to grasp as much as possible. We’re moving towards a goal where we’re all in sync. We’ve done a few things well, and some things we need to work on. Everyone’s on the same page, and we all want to get better as a team. We want to go for the win and not to think about anything else.”
Young and talented striker Shivasakti Narayanan came to the spotlight in the Durand Cup for his goalscoring prowess and for helping his team win matches.
Captain Sunil Chhetri was full of praise for the 21-year-old goal machine who has already scored 4 goals in the competition despite usually coming on late in the games as a substitute.
“Siva is the top scorer for us, and it’s no surprise because we see his quality in training every day. We’re looking forward to him doing well, and don’t want to put pressure on the boy, but he certainly has a great future ahead. Every time he scores, the whole team gets excited for him.”
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