We know how important this game is: Carles Cuadrat

Joining manager Albert Roca at BFC in July, Carles Cuadrat, in his role as assistant manager, has infused a tactical change in the club. Three months down the line, BFC, the first Indian side in the fray for the AFC Cup are set for the Iraqi challenge in Doha.

Joining manager Albert Roca at BFC in July, Carles Cuadrat, in his role as assistant manager, has infused a tactical change in the club. Three months down the line, BFC, the first Indian side in the fray for the AFC Cup are set for the Iraqi challenge in Doha.

“Little steps make people believe that there are more steps to take,” stressed Carles Cuadrat. Sitting in the Bengaluru FC office, Cuadrat, the team’s assistant manager looks at ease in the surroundings less than a handful of months since he came down to India with chief coach Albert Roca.

And in that time, the duo have scripted history for Indian football, leading the Garden City club to the AFC Cup final - a first for any Indian side. Now, looking ahead to the final this weekend against Air Force Club from Iraq, Cuadrat is pleased with the team’s attitude.

“We are very happy with the attitude of all the players. We feel that all of us know how important this game is. But at the same time we are not over or under excited. We are working in a professional way in all the aspects of the game - (for) all situations we can manage - if we are winning, losing or tied,” said the Spaniard.

“Air Force Club are a fighter team. Their physique is bigger. They get the game to a kind of one-on-one battles, with a lot of running and tackles. They are very physical and then there is Hammadi Ahmad, the top scorer of the competition,” he added when quizzed about the strengths of the opponents.

As strong as the Iraqi side may be, Cuadrat firmly believes, and rightfully so, in the abilities of his wards. And their recent history only lends credence to his views.

Infusing the Spanish flavour The confidence comes from BFC’s change in their approach. True to their Spanish, and more specifically Barcelona, roots, the new manager combination have brought in a more possession based style into the team. A tactical shift, the players have taken to quickly and comfortably. But it wasn’t without challenges.

“It’s not easy because the club was working with a coach who brought a lot of success. He had created a winning team. But because of the way we understand the game, we decided that we had to play in a different way. So it means that the players have only two months to change to another kind of winner mentality. Something has been working and you want to change but you lose one game at home and you can start ‘oh we are not in the right way’. But we are happy,” said the Barcelona academy graduate.

While many may believe, forgivably and misguidedly so, that the Indian side head into the final as underdogs, the club is heading into uncharted territory with nary a thought except of lifting that coveted silverware.

Analytical minds at work Albert Roca and Cuadrat didn’t come in from the cold. The duo were diligent and did their researched BFC threadbare before taking over the reins.

“When we were in Spain analysing the club, we saw that there was a lot of talent. We really have some of the best players in India. We knew that with these players and the right transfers, we could manage a team which would enjoy playing with the ball,” remarked Cuadrat.

“We realised that the rest of the teams (in AFC Cup) are strong. So we should have games which are on equal terms. It can be 0-0, 1-1, 1-0... not a lot of goals. So if you build a potent defensive team, you can go for that kind of close result. We saw that that kind of offensive play can be worked out by players like CK Vineeth, Sunil (Chhetri), Eugene (Lyngdoh). But if we have a defensive structure with two central defenders and two central midfielders, with a very clear message about the way they have to play the game, we saw that it makes us stronger,” he revealed.

Variations in set-pieces A sight that has become eye-catching under the Spanish revolution in Bengaluru, has been the set-pieces. While the club is no stranger to scoring from dead-ball situations under previous coach Ashley Westwood, there has been a noticeable increase in their variations.

And the man behind this change, Cuadrat was candid. “We know that one of every three goals around the world is from a set piece. So you have to prevent that and at the same time you need to take advantage of that. So there is that first step to decide what you want to do and then there are training sessions just for set pieces. We analyse the opponents, see in which points they are weak during a set-piece.

“You have different kinds of action that can be successful. As you can see, it was very important in the last game. Two out of three goals were from them,” he said with a smile.

“One of the things that make us proud is that the players understand the importance of that. There was one special moment when we were losing 0-1 (in the semifinal). From the 38th minute to the 79th minute, there were four set-piece action. In the first, we worked it in a way that Sunil (Chhetri) can get the shot and the goal came from that. But it was not only a corner kick but there was set piece strategy before that,” he explained.

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