They began with a bang against Chennaiyin FC but last year's runners-up FC Goa will test their preparations for the fresh season when they take on reigning champions Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) here on Monday.
The Goans were clinical in their opening game. With eight Indians in the starting line-up, they dominated the game throughout and carved out an impressive 3-0 win against Chennai.
They not only showed off their freestyle mentality whilst going forward but also resoluteness at the back as the defence looked unperturbed for the majority of the game.
With Ahmed Jahouh returning from suspension and the duo of Hugo Boumous and Edu Bedia also in consideration for a spot, they are expected to fight even better.
Goa's attacking verve will surely be a test of early validity for Bengaluru’s defence of the title.
Bengaluru started their title-defence with a goalless draw against North-East United. Whilst the Blues enjoyed the lions’ share of possession and dictated the tempo of the game, they failed to capitalise on the chances created – not looking all that clinical in the final third.
However, with players such as Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Dimas Delgado and Raphael Augusto in their ranks, you would be safe to bet that they will soon shake off their early-season rust.
The last game saw Bengaluru being without the services of Erik Paartalu and Albert Serrán – both being ruled out because of injuries. It will be interesting to see what line-up the Blues will put forth in their game against the Gaurs.
In recent times, Bengaluru have had an upper hand over Sergio Lobera’s men. Whilst both the teams finished level on points at the end of the league stage, the Blues got the better of them on all the three occasions the sides had met.
The corresponding fixture last season saw Bengaluru win 2-1 to inflict upon the Gaurs, their only loss at home in the league stage.
"I am very optimistic to use my full squad including Edu Bedia and Ahmed Jahouh. The Chennaiyin game is in the past. We need to look forward as we have a difficult match coming up. Last season, BFC were at a very good level. And I think Goa has also increased their level. We finished with the same points as BFC," said Goa's Head Coach Sergio Lobera.
"I want to continue the improvement and the difference that was between Goa and BFC two, three years ago, (has been diminished) as we have improved. For us, it is a big challenge as I think BFC is the best team in the league."