Bengaluru face unfamiliar Goa test

Bengaluru face unfamiliar Goa test

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri (centre) will once again be key for the club’s hopes for silverware this season.

There used to be a certain pattern about the contest between Bengaluru FC and FC Goa. It used to be a contest which pitted two coaches with their roots in Barcelona - different as they might be in their football philosophy - against each other. It was a clash that pitted discipline against freedom. As the two teams face each other once again in their opening match of the Indian Super League at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday, it will mark the start of a new chapter.

Bengaluru, under head coach Carles Cuadrat, remain a known entity. They have retained key players and added reinforcements. There is an identity and a knowledge about their football within the team. 

While always defensively sound, they fell short in the goal-scoring department last season, and the club has strengthened with Norwegian striker Kristian Opseth and Brazilian winger Cleiton Silva coming in. There is also the reliable Sunil Chhetri. 

They did lose a major piece of their defensive puzzle with Nishu Kumar's departure to Kerala Blasters but Ajith Kumar and Pratik Chaudhari have been brought in to shore up the defence alongside Fran Gonzalez.

"Last season, we had good results in defensive aspects, in attack we missed something. We've been working on that tactically," said Cuadrat on the eve of the clash. 

Goa, on the other hand, are an unknown. Three of their foreign players and captain Mandar Rao Dessai followed their former coach Sergio Lobera to Mumbai City FC. Ferran Corominas and Carlos Pena bid adieu. However, Goa have done well in their reconstruction. 

Juan Ferrando was brought in as the head coach and the club - keeping in mind their AFC Champions League campaign - has roped in foreign players of repute.

In Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie, the club has defenders who played at high levels. Igor Angulo has consistently scored goals in the Polish league. 

Regardless of the talent seen on paper the chances of the clash being a belter is low. "This will be a completely different game (from before) because teams are not in their best physical condition. So the intensity won't be that high. Goa has a new coach, foreigners and ideas. I'm sure Ferrando will give a different challenge," remarked Cuadrat.

Having been unbeaten in their last six meetings, history favours Bengaluru. But then again, it’s a fresh season.