New frontier beckons Bengaluru

City side begin their maiden campaign against Mumbai City today

New frontier beckons Bengaluru

Having captured the imagination of many with their entertaining brand of football for four years, Bengaluru FC will step into a 'new frontier' hoping to continue the same when they take on Mumbai City FC in their maiden Indian Super League tie at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Sunday.

Interestingly, even in their debut season, the city side is considered among the favourites for the title. However, not many can be blamed for this, after all, the JSW-owned side has had an habit of winning almost every competition that they have played in the short yet successful history. And on the eve of their first game, skipper Sunil Chhetri made it clear that the goal will remain the same even in ISL. "I don't want to be the favourite. I want to be one of the teams that will compete to reach the semifinals. That's on my mind now," he said addressing the media.

"In the I-League, we were successful. But this is a different competition and team as well. Many foreigners are there. It will be an upgrade if we try to test our power and strength in a new competition and do our best. From there, for sure, we can compete. And we hope that we will be there in the semifinals."

The upgrade that Chhetri mentioned is not just restricted to the manner in which this league is held. Though top-quality production has helped the league gather eyeballs, on the field too the matches have been more competitive. And on Sunday, Bengaluru will be hoping to add to this upgrade.

With the ISL rules allowing as many as five foreigners to be fielded in a starting XI - one more than last year in the I-League - head coach Albert Roca has ensured that he made the most of the summer transfer window to get the best available players who would understand and help him instill his philosophy into the side.

Forwards Nicols Ladislao Fedor Flores aka Miku and Braulio Nbrega have been brought in with the specific purpose of getting Bengaluru goals, an area they failed poorly last season. While winger Edu Garcia's role is still uncertain, the experience of Toni Dovale and Erik Paartalu will definitely be something that Roca will be banking on in the midfield. Meanwhile, in the defence, the return of John Johnson, who missed his side's AFC Cup campaign owing to personal reasons, is a welcome relief for the Spanish tactician. However, the biggest question still remains on how Roca would mix his international recruits with the quality that he has at his disposal from the Indian boys.

While Roca will be busy tearing his head apart to figure out the best combination for their opening game, his opposite number Alexandre Guimaraes will be hoping that the side he's assembled for the season stand the test of time.

While their goalkeeping and the defence units look good with experienced Amrinder Singh in the goal, and Lucian Goian and Gerson Veira leading the backline, Mumbai still lack a recognised name in the attack. Though Balwant Singh can get the job done, how regularly can he be the game changer is still unknown. On Sunday, though, we could get a first look at what one can expect from them this season.

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