A new-look Chennai City FC will begin their I-League title defence when they take on debutants TRAU FC of Manipur here on Sunday.
Chennai City has lost some of their key players, owing to transfers in the form of Nestor Benitez, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and Tarif Akhand who formed the core of the attack and defence last season.
It will not be an easy opening game for the Coimbatore based side as they look to put a new combination in place.
The defending champions will be looking forward to the experience of Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa who has joined the team this year after spending the last season with NEROCA FC.
At the same time, there will be a high dependence on the Spanish quartet of star striker and golden boot winner Pedro Manzi, defender Roberto Eslava and midfielder Adolfo Miranda and Sandro to repeat the fortunes of last season for the team.
"We are looking forward to the league, working hard for a pre-season of almost four months. We know we are a new team with young and many players without experience in I-league," said captain Manzi, who looked all geared up for the first match.
"I believe this season is going to be even more difficult than the previous one. The teams have been reinforced and are stronger but we will work together to defend the title."
The Imphal-based TRAU, on the other hand, is the unpredictable force of I-League this season. To have qualified for the first time for the I-League only in their second year of existence speaks volumes about the ability of the team.
The visiting team is led by Nigerian forward Princewill Emeka Olariche, who was also the highest scorer in the 2nd Division league with 10 goals. He will be looking to replicate his form in the I-League.
In company with him are some key players which include the likes of 32-year-old Brazillian forward Marcel Sacramento, former East Bengal and Mohun Bagan midfielder Abhinash Ruidas and a direct transfer from Kerala Blasters, Loken Meitei who will have a point to prove in the I-League.
Speaking before the match TRAU FC captain Olriche stressed on the importance of a good pre-season.
"Preparation so far has gone so well. We had a few pre-season friendly matches from which we got mostly positive results and we are readily waiting for the I-League season to commence. We have so much in store," he said.
"We have made a lot of additions to the squad, most experienced players, both foreigners and Indians. We have a superb technical team and we are playing a fantastic brand of football. We are ready and we are anticipating a great season ahead."
The match starts at Nehru Stadium at 7 pm.