Former Indian Super League champions Bengaluru FC will be opening their campaign today against FC Goa, who clinched the league shield last season. The match will take place at the historic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.
Bengaluru FC will have a known face in their dug out as the Blues have decided to continue with Carles Cuadrat , who is now in his 5th season at the club and 3rd season as head coach. FC Goa on the other hand have roped in Spanish manager Juan Ferrando, who is also one of the youngest head coaches in the league, to replace another Spaniard Sergio Lobera, best known for winning the Super Cup with Goa and also giving them a distinctive playing style. While Cuadrat will have a settled core group to work with, his counterpart has got the task of rebuilding a side that saw a mass exodus in the transfer market.
Bengaluru had started their pre season at their facility in Bellary before shifting to Goa . A couple of their foreigners , Opseth and Fran Gonzalez joined relatively late but overall, BFC has had a solid pre season. They also played a friendly with Hyderabad FC which they drew 1-1. FC Goa had mixed results in the pre season games they played leading up to the ISL. They won 3-2 against Jamshedpur FC and 3-0 against Chennaiyin FC but succumbed to a 2-4 loss against Hyderabad FC.
Bengaluru, led by the evergreen Sunil Chhetri, will again depend on familiar faces like Harmanjot Khabra, Chhetri, Dimas Delgado, Erik Paartalu, Juanan Gonzalez, Udanta Singh and Gurpreet Sandhu. They have made a few smart buys like Ajith Kumar from Chennai City and Nicholas Opseth, who is their lattest attempt to find a replacement for the charismatic Miku. However, some of their players are gaining in years with Dimas now 37, Chhetri 36, Paartalu 34 and Juanan 33. It will be interesting to see how this experienced core turns out for the JSW owned side. Goa though are anything but settled. They have lost almost the entire group that was instrumental in leading them to the league shield last season – Carlos Pena retired, the club chose not to retain Ferran Corominas (all time top scorer in ISL, 2 times golden boot winner) and they lost Mandar Desai, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall and Hugo Boumous to Mumbai City. Ferrando will have to start from scratch and much of that will depend on last season’s golden boot winner in the Polish league, Igor Angulo (who is one among 5 new foreigners at the Gaurs).
Both teams look neck to neck on paper but Bengaluru’s settled core and their prior experience in Indian Football should give them the advantage.
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