Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca expressed delight on leading his side to the Indian Super League final in their debut season and said that the journey to the top has been difficult for his team.
"I am very happy for the franchise, for the city to be in the final. It is so important for everybody concerned. It is amazing for sure. From the beginning, we knew how difficult it would be to be here.
"We knew how hard it would be to get here, but we started early, prepared well and we planned to succeed. I'm really happy for the staff, the players, for the city and especially for the fans who have always been behind us," Roca said at a press conference ahead of Bengaluru's final against Chennaiyin FC.
For skipper Sunil Chhetri, the final represents the biggest match of his career so far and he said that he was pleased with Bengaluru's debut season in the ISL.
"It is right up there. There were a lot of talks when we joined the ISL, on how we're going to fare. As a club, we've done well in our inaugural season in the ISL. I'm very fortunate to have played many big games in my career, and tomorrow's game is right up there with the rest of them."
Chennaiyin finished second in the league behind Bengaluru while also beating the Blues in their own backyard. Roca had words of praise for 2015 champions Chennaiyin but claimed that his side is prepared to rise up to the challenge.
"Chennaiyin are a very big team and they have shown a lot of quality and talent and it won't be an easy game. We have done well and we are ready for the challenge. We are expecting a tight game where little details can make the difference. We need to control our emotions tomorrow," the Spaniard said.
Bengaluru's season began in August, much before any of their rivals, with the AFC Cup. It presented Roca, who is in his second season in charge at Bengaluru, a challenge in preparing his side for competition on two fronts. However, Roca hailed his player's dedication to the club and how they approached their ISL campaign.
"I think we started in August, before any other team because we had to play in the AFC Cup. There is one more step to go. Right now, I am very very happy for the staff and the players. Also for the fans, they have always been behind us to support throughout the season.
"We are lucky that we have experienced players who want to be a part of our journey. We are quite happy with the year. We reached the semi-final of the AFC Cup, we didn't do well at the start of the ISL campaign, but we've shown character to reach the final.
"Whatever happens tomorrow, I know that this team has done an almost outstanding job and I'm really proud of every player and staff who is part of this club."
Responding to a question on whether their 1-2 loss to Chennaiyin at the Sree Kanteerava has affected the team psychologically, Chhetri said, "The game we lost is not on our mind. The result is, yes. But we've played some very good games since and we're looking forward. After we played them here, we lost to Jamshedpur also at home. We came back strongly and we beat them (Chennaiyin) at their stadium."
Chhetri credited Bengaluru's successful first season to the importance of staying together as a team and the work ethic displayed by his team.
"The mantra is simple in our team. Forgetting cliches, we play as a team. We have some amazing players on this team. The experienced Indian players and the foreigners are always teaching the younger ones.
"We see Miku working out in the gym after training, we see Dimas (Delgado) working so hard. I'm really lucky and fortunate to be the captain of a team in which everyone wants to improve and everyone wants to push each other forward."
The Blues have a chance to cap off an excellent first season in the ISL by lifting the trophy in front of their home fans and Chhetri called on the Bengaluru faithful to cheer their team on.
"I just want them (the fans) to know that we're going out there, knowing we want to do it for them. Just be there and be loud."
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Updated Date: Mar 16, 2018 21:25:45 IST