Chhetri and Bengaluru FC eye Durand milestone
Kolkata: Indian talisman Sunil Chhetri will be desperate to add the coveted Durand Cup title to his illustrious career when he leads Bengaluru FC against Mumbai City FC in the summit clash here on Sunday.
For 38-year-old Chhetri, who is in the twilight of his career, the Durand Cup is missing from his trophy cabinet. It's also the same for Bengaluru FC, who have won all major Indian competitions since coming into existence in 2013, but not the Durand Cup.
BFC were the ISL 2018-19 champions, and also have six other top domestic titles to their name, and will be vying for their seventh.
"It's very, very special. It is one of the oldest tournaments which in itself is very big. As a club we have not won it," Chhetri said of Bengaluru FC who have won the I-League twice, Indian Super League once and the Federation Cup/Super Cup thrice.
"More so for me... Individually too, I've not won the Durand Cup at all. I've been fortunate to win a lot of tournaments, almost all the tournaments that one can in India and the Durand Cup is missing," Chhetri said in the build-up to the tournament.
"So for me it's an added motivation. We as a club will try our best. Last year our young boys gave a good account of themselves, we want to better that," he said of their last edition's show where a young Blues side were eliminated in sudden death by eventual champions FC Goa.
A resolute, gritty performance aided by an own goal from Hyderabad FC's Odei Onaindia took Bengaluru FC to their first-ever Durand Cup final here on Thursday.
MCFC, on the other hand, ousted local heavyweights Mohammedan Sporting in the other semifinal, to set up a clash between two former ISL champions.
The likes of Javier Hernandez, Roy Krishna and Chhetri up front will have their task cut out, with Des Buckingham's MCFC at their resolute best so far, especially after the inclusion of Senegalese defender Mourtada Fall.
They also have the highest scorer of the tournament Lallianzuala Chhangte (seven goals) in their ranks and someone of the quality of Greg Stewart marshalling the midfield with authority.
"Look I think we have to play as a team tomorrow," Simon Grayson, BFC's English coach said on the eve of the final.
"They play a lot of passes. We have to be good tomorrow to stop the opposition. We have to be careful and make sure we play better.
"We don't have any injuries. Our target will be to win the trophy without any injuries. We are in the final and we will make sure that we win the trophy because we have the mentality to win," he added.
Islanders coach Buckingham is well aware of Roy Krishna's strength from his Wellington Phoenix days in the A-League.
"It is not only about individual skill Bengaluru has but the attacking prowess they possess when the players link up.
"We will have our game plan and I am focusing on what we do with the ball and without it. We'll focus on our approach to how we attack and defend," the MCFC coach said.
West Bengal governor La Ganesan, Army chief General Manoj Pande and state sports minister Aroop Biswas among other dignitaries will be in attendance for the final.
The final day also has an elaborate closing ceremony with patriotic songs to be played by bands.
There will also be air warrior drill, dance performances by Kalaripayattu, northeast fusions as well as Bhangra.
Kick-off: 6pm IST.