I-League: Bharat FC faces Sporting in battle of struggling teams

Debutants Bharat FC are upbeat about their ninth round I-League football clash tomorrow with another struggling outfit, Sporting Clube de Goa, at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

I-League: Bharat FC faces Sporting in battle of struggling teams

Pune: Debutants Bharat FC are upbeat about their ninth round I-League football clash tomorrow with another struggling outfit, Sporting Clube de Goa, at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

Bharat FC are currently 10th on the 11-team table, having garnered 5 points from 6 games while their winless Goan opponents occupy the last spot with 3 points from 7 games.

A victory for the League debutants would help them inch their way up the table, but a loss would confine them to the relegation zone currently occupied by Sporting.

Bharat FC seemed to have hit the groove after an upset 2-0 victory - their first win - over Goan heavyweights Salgaocar, but then a following defeat by an identical score against Mumbai FC halted their upward movement.

Increased attacking penetration coupled with a surge in commitment is what Bharat FC's head coach Stuart Watkiss expects from his side against Sporting.

Watkiss said that he expected his team to dust off the defeat against Mumbai and focus on the job at hand.

"We all know we did not play well against Mumbai FC. However, we cannot let that burden our minds. We know that we have got enough in the tank to get good results at home and I have told the lads just that. We have worked on a few things in training and I am hopeful that we can execute these things on the pitch on Wednesday night," he said.

Bharat FC will be boosted by the return of their key midfielder, Bobby Hassell, G Vignesh and Dharmaraj Ravanan - the last two after a one-match suspension that caused them to miss the clash against Mumbai FC.

Coach Watkiss said that the trio's return will give his side a welcome boost.

"Bobby (Hassell), Vignesh and Ravanan are good players and play important roles in the team. The guys who stepped in for them during the last match have done a good job, but I am happy that I will again have a full strength squad to choose from.

"Ravanan's return helps us immensely because he has settled well with Gouramangi (Singh) in the centre of our defense and we will be back with our first-choice pairing," he said.

"We need to keep the ball, dictate the play. Against Mumbai, we had possession of the ball but we often gave it away before we could create a good opening. We need to stay focused on the job at hand. The team has trained well, there is a new energy in this team and I am sure Bharat FC will put in an enthusiastic performance tomorrow night," he added.

Key player Syed Rahim Nabi said the defeat against Mumbai had served as a wake-up-call.

"We have had time to analyse our mistakes. The coach has explained to us where we went wrong against Mumbai. The boys were disappointed with the result and everyone is fired up to give a much better performance and repay the faith that the coach has placed in us," he said.

Sporting Clube de Goa's head coach Mateus Costa said he was looking forward to a challenging and exciting match.

"We have seen Bharat FC play and they look quite an organised team. We have made certain plans and I am confident that my team is up for the challenge," he said.

Sporting played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Balewadi stadium in round 6 against Pune FC and Costa said that the experience of playing in Pune earlier in the season would come in handy for his side.