BFC set eyes on second title

Football I-League : Bigger pool of injury-free players boosts our chances: Westwood

BFC set eyes on second title

 Fresh season brings with it fresh ambitions. For Bengaluru FC, who were just minutes away from retaining the I-League towards the fag end of last season, the goal is to reclaim the title they won in fine fashion on their debut season in 2013.

With that aim in mind, coach Ashley Westwood has recruited eight new players, bolstering the squad that has a good blend of youth and experience in all departments. Sounding confident, the Englishman felt the team is strong enough to land the spoils again.

“We look quite strong now,” said Westwood at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Tuesday. “Obviously it’s been a little unforeseen, and stop-start, with the ISL (Indian Super League). We’ve managed to work fairly consistently over the last four weeks and we have some new players. It has pushed the guys who have been here, who may have gotten a little (too) comfortable. We have a nice balance about us.

“In the first year, we only used 13-14 players, year two it was 16-17, now we have 23 outfield players and three goalkeepers. Most of the 23 have it in them to be in the first XI, so it will be more competitive. Up front, we have 7-8 players fighting for three positions. We are unfortunate to lose Robin (Singh), but it gives a good chance for others to do well.”

A host of BFC players including regulars Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh, Thoi Singh and Eugeneson Lyndoh, were involved in the punishing ISL that concluded last month. Despite limited preparation time, Westwood felt the team can hit the right note when they take on Salgaocar on January 9 in Goa. “Need to pick up the training. We try to train intense -- a lot of high intensity sprints etc. It is a little different from ISL, getting used to our tempo of play. In most football clubs around the world, the team gets together and play friendlies for 2-3 weeks and before you know the first league game starts. We were fortunate to get almost every player back before the (ISL) finals, only Thoi was missing before the finals. A few players, like Eugene, needed the rest. We've done what we can, and hopefully it will be enough.”

Westwood opined that the league will be an intensely fought one. “It will be tough. There are a couple of unknowns. Mumbai FC has added some decent players so they will be stronger than they normally are. DSK (Shivajians) are a new side with a good coach and good players.

“(Mohun) Bagan will be up there as they have got really strong in their attacking areas. East Bengal are always in and around it because they have a good squad and have the luxury of not having the distractions of the AFC Cup. Salgaocar has got a new coach who is fresh to the country so he is going to bring a new outlook. Add to that the two sides from North East which is always a difficult place to go. So there will be lots of twist and turns and it will be a tough season for sure.”


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