Bengaluru FC took to the Indian Super League like fish takes to water. In their very first season, the Blues topped the league phase and reached the final. The next season they went a step further and won the ISL title after beating FC Goa in the final.
Hence in comparison, their performance last year was relatively disappointing as they failed to reach the final and finished third in the league table, missing out on the AFC Champions League spot.
Bengaluru, who have the highest win percentage in the ISL, have set really high standards since its inception in 2013, having won the I-League twice before joining the ISL. The Blues are also the only Indian club ever to reach the final of the AFC Cup.
The strength for Bengaluru FC over the years has been the stability of their squad and this season it’s no different with the JSW Sports-owned outfit retaining most of the players from last season.
With Carles Cuadrat at helm, BFC are also among two clubs to head into the new season with the same manager as last season (apart from new entity ATK Mohun Bagan) and will once again be among the favourites given their pedigree.
What’s changed for 2020-’21 season
Ins: Pratik Chaudhari, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Joe Zoherliana, Wungngayam Muirang, Cleiton Silva, Ajith Kumar, Fran Gonzalez, Kristian Opseth, Lara Sharma, Thoi Singh
Outs: Kevaughn Frater, Rino Anto, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, PS Gill, Nishu Kumar, Nili Perdomo, Manuel Onwu, Sairuat Kima, Kean Lewis, Albert Serran, Aditya Patra, Raphel Augusto, GS Gill
The Blues strengthened their attack with the additions of Cleiton Silva and Kristian Opseth. Carles Cuadrat’s team struggled for goals last season and the arrival of these two new foreign imports could go a long way in addressing that issue. The signing of Fran Gonzalez is also a good one considering they lost Albert Serran.
Among the Indians, Pratik Chaudhari, who had a solid season for Mumbai City, is a shrewd signing, so is the recruitment of Ajith Kumar.
As mentioned earlier, Bengaluru’s biggest strength is the stability of the team. Bengaluru FC have their spine very much intact from last season. From Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to Sunil Chhetri, their line-up oozes class and experience.
The Blues conceded just 13 goals that season and have the majority of that rearguard at the club. The addition of Silva and Opseth should re-energise the team’s attack and the Blues should be able to score more goals than last time out.
In captain Chhetri, they have a great leader who is an inspiration for all squad members. Having such a captain is of great help for the coach.
Bengaluru have a great team but there it’s also a slightly ageing squad. Even if the average age of the team is just 26, the core group of the side that includes Chhetri, Dimas, Paartalu are all in their thirties and will show signs of slowing down sooner rather than later.
In attack, the Blues might have to rely a bit too heavily on its foreign players and Chhetri to produce the goods. The performances of the likes of Udanata Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan came under criticism last season and the duo will have to step up if Bengaluru FC are to carry a greater goal threat.
Coach - Carles Cuadrat
Cuadrat will enter his third season as Bengaluru FC manager and being a former winner of the competition, his credentials are unquestionable. However, last season he’d have been disappointed with the return from his foreign attackers and will need to get the best out of his new foreign recruits.
The Spaniard though showed great tactical flexibility last season to keep Bengaluru competitive and take them to the semi-finals despite a clear lack of cutting edge upfront.
Cuadrat would like to regain the swagger with which Bengaluru played in his first season in-charge while preserving the defensive organisation. Few coaches are able to stay for a long haul in the ISL and the challenge for Cuadrat will be to reinvent and keep his squad fresh this season.
Player to watch out for: Sunil Chhetri
It’s hard to look beyond the Indian captain. Even at 36, Chhetri has shown little signs of slowing down and remains the club’s talisman. His ability to play in different positions will come in handy in order to accommodate the club’s foreign recruits.
A compulsive goalscorer, Chhetri is just nine goals away from becoming ISL’s all-time leading goalscorer, a fact that would certainly provide added motivation for the BFC skipper.
Apart from his goals, Cuadrat will once again bank on his leadership to keep the levels high at Bengaluru FC. In Chhetri, he has the most respected figure in Indian football.
Bengaluru FC squad
|Gurpreet Singh Sandhu||Ajith Kumar||Ajay Chhetri||Deshorn Brown|
|Lalthuammawia Ralte||Biswa Darjee||Amay Morajkar||Edmund Lalrindika|
|Lara Sharma||Francisco Gonzalez||Cleiton Silva||Kristian Opseth|
|Joe Zoherliana||Dimas Delgado||Leon Augustin|
|Juanan||Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha||Naorem Singh|
|Namgyal Bhutia||Eric Paartalu||Naorem Singh|
|Parag Srivas||Harmanjot Khabra||Sunil Chhetri|
|Pratik Chaudhari||Suresh Wangjam||Semboi Haokip|
|Rahul Bheke||Thoi Singh|
|Wungngayam Muirang||Ashique Kuruniyan|
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