Injury-hit Bengaluru expect new signings to adapt quickly to Roca’s style.
Bengaluru: Following their sensational show in the previous season, Bengaluru FC will kick off their new, but possibly the final I-League campaign, against Shillong Lajong at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.
With the proposed restructuring of the league system set to happen the following season and details on the matter sketchy at the moment, the top domestic league of the country has been under a cloud for a while. The fact that the tournament, with all its troubles of pull-outs and the kind, begins with 10 teams in the mix is an achievement in itself.
Being the defending champions and coming in as AFC runners-up, the Garden City club has certainly broken the glass ceiling. But the question is whether they can emulate, or even eclipse, the heroics.
At a glance it’s hard to dispute that the JSW-owned side has improved. The addition of the likes of Lenny Rodrigues, Mandar Rao Desai and Harmanjot Khabra among others has given them more options and variations.
Coming into the match hit hard by injuries, it will be interesting to see how well the new recruits gel with the team and adapt to the possession-based style that coach Albert Roca favours.
The home side will be without Rino Anto, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Keegan Pereira, Salam Ranjan Singh and Lalchhuanmawia who are all out with injuries.
With Alvaro Rubio, the Spanish midfielder and the heart of BFC’s AFC Cup campaign, no longer part of the team, it will be interesting to see who partners Cameron Watson anchoring the midfield though Rodrigues is the obvious choice. The versatile Khabra, meanwhile, is likely to feature in the full back role.
Going forward there are options galore for the Men in Blue led by the talismanic Sunil Chhetri. The creative burden will be shouldered by Eugeneson Lyngdoh while C.K. Vineeth, Udanta Singh and Mandar will look to utilise their pace and quick feet to complement the midfielders’ vision and passing range.
Meanwhile, for Lajong it’s not been a fixture that they have found much joy in, over the years.
Having finished with 18 points last season and avoiding relegation at the expense of their neighbours Aizawl FC by two points, Lajong will have to be at their best if they want to take anything away from the tie.
With just 14 goals scored in the league last season, the onus of scoring will fall on the shoulders of Fabio Pena and new recruit Asier Dipanda, who will be pitted against John Johnson and Juanan.
The bulk of the creativity will stem from Yuta Kinowaki while centre back Dan Ignat will be key to their hopes of defensive solidity.
“Bengaluru have been tough for us, especially at home they are very strong. The best in India,” said Lajong coach Thangboi Singto.
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