After an uninspiring goalless draw with Dempo a week ago, champions Bengaluru FC will be under pressure to deliver when they face Pune FC in the second round of the Hero I-League here Saturday.
A missed penalty by skipper Sunil Chhetri and a clutch of wasted scoring chances saw BFC just about manage to force a draw with Dempo who with a bit more luck could well have emerged victors.
Against Pune who also drew their opening away fixture with Salgaocar 1-1 by conceding a late equaliser, the onus will be on the hosts to up their level of play and it remains to be seen whether Ashley Westwood’s team can notch their first win of the new season.
Pune have proved rather troublesome for BFC in their previous four meetings. Bengaluru drew both their home games 1-1 while Pune won one and lost the other when hosting the Blues last year, by a one goal margin.
Thus, another close battle is in the offing with the pressure of high expectations on BFC who recently won the Federation Cup in Goa to underline their status as the country’s top club team at the moment.
On the other hand, Pune, under new coach Karim Bencherifa, have enjoyed fruitful outings as they reached the finals of two major tournaments, the Durand and King’s Cup to send out strong signals that they are a side to beat.
Like BFC, who took in some fresh faces at the start of the season, Pune have also tinkered with their line-up by roping in centre-back Luciano Sobrosa from Brazil and Japanese striker Ryuji Sueoka.
Both these imports will have a major role to play on the morrow.
For BFC, their lead striker Sean Rooney had an off-day against Dempo last week and the hosts will be hoping that he will bring his shooting boots to the stadium Saturday.
Rather, it was the BFC defence that stood out in the opening game with centre-back John Johnson having an outstanding game.
Thus, the teams appear evenly matched and that alone promises a thrilling battle as there is so much to play for since a victory will certainly provide momentum to their respective I-League campaign.