Kerala Blasters will come up against Bengaluru FC in one of the most highly anticipated matches of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) in front of a sellout crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Monday.
The two teams have one of the most passionate set of fans in the league and their constant banter is what makes this a spicy affair.
Last season when Bengaluru FC came to Kochi on the eve of New Year, they thumped three goals in what was Rene Meulensteen's final game in-charge. This was the biggest home defeat for Kerala last year.
"Bengaluru FC are one of the best teams in the league. This will be a make or break game for us. We go into every game to try and get the three points and tomorrow is no different. We are desperate for a win. We will be out there, trying to achieve that," said assistant coach Hermann Hreiarsson.
The Kerala technical staff have identified their profligacy upfront as one of the important reasons why they are not able to convert draws into wins. Hreiarsson said Kerala will make changes in order to keep the squad fresh.
Bengaluru FC look in sublime form with Miku firing on all cylinders. In their previous tie in Kolkata, Carles Cuadrat's side conceded in the opening quarter of the game and were struggling to break the opposition defence until Miku produced a moment of brilliance from a set-piece. A lot would depend on how Sandesh Jhingan copes against the Venezuelan striker.
C K Vineeth will be pumped up ahead of the game as he will come up against his former team. Rino Anto, who switched to Kerala last year, has moved back to Bengaluru FC, and will be keen to make a mark as well.
What's notable about Bengaluru is that apart from their goalscoring exploits, they have been miserly at the back with just three goals conceded. The likes of Juanan and Albert Serran have performed exceptionally well as the Blues have coped well with the departure of John Johnson and Subashish Bose.
"It was no easy task to replace Johnson and Subhasish. But, I'm very happy with the way Albert and Nishu (Kumar) have come in and done their job. I am really happy with the intensity they have shown going forward," said Cuadrat.
The onus is on the hosts to end their run of four consecutive draws while Bengaluru will want their 100 per cent away record to continue. Knowing how well the two teams have contested in the past, this one is unmissable.