Reigning Indian Super League champions, two-time I-League champions, Super Cup winners – Bengaluru FC are no newbies when it comes to success in the domestic football circuit and it is no surprise that they will be gunning for glory yet again.
Come 21 October, Carles Cuadrat’s side will begin their mission towards defending the title when they face Northeast United at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
The Carles Cuadrat managed-BFC were busy in the off-season in terms of their transfer activity. While the likes of Miku Fedor and Xisco Hernandes were among the list of 12 departures, the side have brought back Eugeneson Lyngdoh in a free transfer from ATK, along with former FC Pune City winger Ashique Kuruniyan and Spanish centre-forward Michael Onwu.
However of all the 12 departures, Miku’s exit will hurt BFC the most. The Venezuelan centre-forward was fan’s favourite during his time in the Garden City and was very instrumental in BFC’s first season in the ISL, scoring 14 goals in 17 matches. He even began the 2018-19 season on a promising note, registering three goals and two assists in first five games. However, a knee injury meant that Miku missed action for the next two months.
Lyngdoh, meanwhile, has been a prominent face in Bengaluru since arriving in 2014, albeit spending the 2015-16 season at FC Pune City on loan. He then moved to ATK in 2017 where limited opportunities and a knee injury in the first season meant that he soon had to hunt for another club.
"Ever since I first signed for Bengaluru FC I knew I was making the right decision. Now that I am here again I want to relive those moments and create new ones. I am looking forward to being back on the pitch and fighting for titles once again," Lyngdoh had said in June.
Cuadrat has also put faith on the Shillong-born athlete, hoping that he would be an example for youngsters in the squad.
But most importantly, despite all the transfers, Cuadrat has managed to retain the core of the team, including skipper Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Australian mid-fielder Erik Paartalu.
The defence needs no introduction. Last year’s Golden Glove winner, with the joint-most – seven of them in 19 games last season, Gurpreet will be the key man in goal.
The hero of last season’s final Rahul Bheke will be eyeing for another extraordinary season while the Spanish duo of Albert Serran and Juanan Gonzales look set to continue their impeccable form.
Serran has played vastly for Spanish club RCD Espanyol and English side Swansea City, and the veteran will be a guide to the juniors in the side.
Additionally, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill will join the side this season as a backup for Gurpreet.
Meanwhile, Paartalu, who suffered a muscle injury back in February, impressed by scoring a goal in BFC’s pre-season friendly win against Churchill Brothers last month.
Speaking of which, there is a huge depth in midfield for BFC – Raphael Augusto, Ashique Kuruniyan, Kean Lewis, Dimas Delgado and Lyngdoh. This will undoubtedly give Cuadrat a lot of options to choose from, and he also need not worry about emergency back-ups.
Lewis has a vast experience in the ISL, having played for Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City, and will be a great supportive figure for a goal-scorer in Chhetri.
The forward line’s onus will be on the duo of Chhetri and Udanta Singh, while Spanish newcomer Michael Onwu will bolster the attack. Chhetri and Udanta registered 14 goals and six assists combined between them in Bengaluru’s successful season last time around.
Onwu, in fact, will have the added responsibility for filling in for Miku, who remains the club’s second-highest scorer with 20 goals even after his departure.
The Blues have been busy off the field as well. While Bengaluru struck a two-year partnership with Scottish Premiership giants Rangers, they have also retained the Sree Kanteerava Stadium as their home ground.
Bengaluru were on the verge of moving to the Balewadi Stadium in Pune after some athletes alleged that BFC’s use of the stadium hampered their training.
However, Department of Youth Empowerment & Sports in Karnataka issued a consent to the club’s owners, Jindal Steel Works, enabling them to play home matches at the stadium for the entire season. Needless to say, this will come as a huge psychological boost for both Bengaluru FC and their fans, as they look set to go all the way this season.
All in all, it is just safe to say that the Blues will be dreaming of becoming the first team to defend the title in a tournament where almost no team can be written off.
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Updated Date: Oct 18, 2019 20:11:22 IST