The first semi-final of the Super Cup 2023 will see Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC lock horns at the EMS Corporation Stadium, here on Friday.
The Blues have had an initial hiccup when they had to come from behind to earn a point against Sreenidi FC in Group A, but have been in control of their fate since then, defeating RoundGlass Punjab (2-0), and earning a draw against Kerala Blasters (1-1) in front of a partisan crowd in Kozhikode, to make their way to the semis as the group winners.
Bengaluru head coach Simon Grayson welcomed the break his side got in the last few days, which the club used to make the short trip back home to Bengaluru, before heading back to Kozhikode for the semi-finals.
"I think we've got a welcome break in the last couple of days. It helped us to recharge our batteries a little bit, returning to Bengaluru and getting a few training sessions done as well. We're ready to go again and look forward to the game," said Grayson ahead of the semis.
Bengaluru have fashioned themselves into a side that have long runs in the knockout stages, and the Super Cup has proved to be no different for the former champions, who lifted the trophy in 2018.
The Blues have already won the Durand Cup earlier this season, and also made it to the final of the Indian Super League.
"It's another test, but it's an opportunity for us to make our third final this season, which would be a fantastic achievement. It plays a part, both mentally and physically, that you're ready," said Grayson.
"Everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. When you play in big games, you know that you have to play with your head as well as your heart. We've got the experience of doing that and hopefully that will prove to be positive when we come to the final whistle on Friday night," he added.
For Jamshedpur FC, it is more a matter of salvaging a season that they would otherwise like to forget. The club from the Steel City, after finishing 10th in the Hero Indian Super League, has shown good form, and were the only side in the Hero Super Cup to book their semi-final spot with a game in hand.
"I'm very pleased with how the group stage went for us, but that is over now, and means nothing. We have been attacking a lot, and scoring goals, so the boys are quite enjoying the tournament," said head coach Adrian Boothroyd.
Jamshedpur have netted 11 and conceded five in their three Hero Super Cup matches, and Boothroyd feels that it's the back-line that needs to shore-up, ahead of the semi-final.
"The lads have played really well and scored lots of goals. But for me, a few more clean sheets would have been nice," he said. "We've got plenty of good players who are fit and strong. The coaching has been good, and we'd love to get some good results against some good teams. Of course, we're playing a bit of catch-up (after a poor start to the season), but the Hero Super Cup gives us that opportunity," the coach said.
Bengaluru FC have had the upper hand against Jamshedpur in their previous encounters this season in the ISL, with the former having won both legs (1-0 and 3-0). However, the side from the Garden City is not taking their opponents lightly.
"They had a very difficult start to the season, but Jamshedpur have been very hard to play against in the second half of the campaign," said Grayson.
"They've been scoring a lot of goals towards the end of the Hero ISL, and especially in the Hero Super Cup, they've scored a lot of goals, so we're in for a very tough game," he added.
Boothroyd remembered the time when he had shared the pitch with Grayson back in their playing days, and felt that it would be an interesting game at the EMS Stadium on Friday.
"I'm very much looking forward to the game. I've played against Simon before, and it will be interesting. Bengaluru are a good side, they have won the Durand Cup, got to the finals of the ISL, so we have a lot of respect for them," said Boothroyd.
"But we have to come up with a plan to nullify their strengths and expose their weaknesses, and we're working on that," he added.
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