AFC Cup, Roca's future on the line as BFC take on Abahani
In what could be Albert Roca's final match in charge of the club, Bengaluru FC (BFC) face Dhaka Abahani away in an AFC Cup group match on Wednesday, hoping at the same time for a favour from Aizawl FC.
ESPN understands that BFC and Roca are on the verge of parting ways, though a small window of opportunity for an extension for Roca could present itself should the two-time I-League champions qualify for the knockouts. For that to happen though, BFC need to better New Radiant's result against Aizawl.
While BFC have won 20 out of 26 matches in 2018, Roca's future with the club has been a talking point ever since the 3-2 defeat to Chennaiyin FC in the ISL final, which was soon followed by a disappointing 2-0 reversal in the AFC Cup at the hands of New Radiant in April.
Despite the two defeats, BFC fans have been vocal in their support for their Spanish coach, gathering in large numbers to chant 'Albert Roca stay' during the team's 5-0 victory against Aizawl at the Kanteerava Stadium earlier this month.
Roca took over from Englishman Ashley Westwood in July 2016, and guided BFC to the AFC Cup final in Doha in November that year, the first continental final made by an Indian club. The 2016-17 I-League was a disappointment for BFC, though, as they finished fourth but found a consolation prize in the Federation Cup.
Roca's biggest contribution in his two years in charge has been in making BFC a more potent attacking team than what they used to be under Westwood. Part of that philosophy has seen Roca employ three defenders at the back, encouraging defenders like Rahul Bheke and Harmanjot Khabra from the right, and Nishu Kumar and Subhasish Bose from the left, to join in attack on a regular basis.
Roca's BFC have also prided themselves for the number of set-pieces they have converted in all competitions, with the team ending as the second-highest scorers in both seasons that they played under him. It will also be the biggest challenge for any incoming coach, to replicate the legacy of success that has been at the club since their first full season in Indian football in 2013-14.
Roca was also among those linked with the India job at one stage, when there was uncertainty over current coach Stephen Constantine's contract extension ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in UAE next year, but Constantine was eventually retained by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).