Bengaluru FC look to bring their success into the Hero ISL

The fourth season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) will see a new structure being adopted with the introduction of two clubs, Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC. For the former, ‘new’ is probably an incorrect term to use since they are already a well-established and highly successful club. The Blues have won the I-League twice and are two-time Federation Cup winners as well. In fact, Bengaluru remain the only Indian club to reach the final of the AFC Cup and have achieved all this in its brief four-year history.

Bengaluru head into their new endeavour having retained quite a few of their old boys who brought them success in the I-League. However, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t made any eye-catching and talented recruits, who’ll be keen to make an impression ahead of the club’s Hero ISL bow.

Defence

The ever-reliable centre-back John Johnson will continue safeguarding their defence. The Englishman has been part of the club since it’s inception and will be marshalling their backline. Partnering him at the back will be Spaniard Juan Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez, better known as Juanan. Having played for Real Madrid’s B-team as well as in the Bundesliga, Juanan adds a lot of experience to their defence. As far as the Indian defenders go, the versatile Boithang Haokip is one individual who can be deployed in a full-back role or in midfield. Not afraid to get forward in support, Haokip is also a threat from dead ball situations near the penalty area. Another versatile defender in the squad is young centre-back Subhashish Bose, who can also double-up as a left-back. There will be lots of competition for the full-back positions with the talented Nishu Kumar. Kumar is comfortable playing as a full-back or on either flank and is good with both feet. Rahul Bheke is another Indian full-back and comes with Hero ISL experience. Harmanjot Singh Khabra, who has played in midfield for Chennaiyin FC in the past, can also be an option for Bengaluru at the back.

Midfield

The centre of the park for Bengaluru includes the Spanish trio of Antonio Dovale Rodriguez, Eduardo Garcia Martin and Dimas Delgado. All three have played in the Spanish Segunda Division and are known to contribute goals from midfield. Midfielder Erik Paartalu will most likely be entrusted to carry out the anchoring role having played with the likes of Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City in Australia. Teenager Bidyananda Singh made a few impressive cameos in ATK’s title winning campaign last season and will want to build on that. The team has also acquired the services of the strong Zohmingliana Ralte, who was part of Aizawl’s I-League winning team earlier this year. Former FC Pune City regular, Lenny Rodriguez is another central midfield option for Bengaluru, who heads into the season on the back of a few fine outings with the Blues in the I-League.

Attack

The forward line of Bengaluru FC is perhaps one of the most lethal attacks in the league. Venezuela’s Nicolás Ladislao Fedor Flores, a.k.a. Miku, has been a prolific scorer for Getafe as well as Rayo Vallecano in the La Liga and has also enjoyed a stint with Scottish giants Celtic. The 32-year-old will bring a definite edge to Bengaluru’s attacks. Spaniard Braulio Nobrega is another former Getafe player and has featured for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid as well. The two go-to men for the Blues, however, are their long-time star possessions. Indian captain Sunil Chhetri has stuck with the club since its formation and India’s all-time top scorer has gone on to play a prolific and influential role in the history of Bengaluru. He will want to lead the Blues to success in their debut ISL season, much like he did in the club’s debut I-League campaign. Joining him up front will be the highly rated and immensely talented Udanta Singh, who like Chhetri played for Mumbai City FC last year. The 21-year-old from Manipur is lightning quick and possesses a bag of tricks that can outfox many good defenders.

The coach

Spaniard Albert Roca remains at the helm after leading Bengaluru to a maiden AFC Cup final and a second Federation Cup title. Tactically sound, he is a major factor behind the Blues investing heavily on Spaniards. Bengaluru will be expecting a title tilt from Roca’s side this season going by their history of success.

Player to watch out for

Sunil Chhetri has led the club in all of it’s successes in the past and will be shouldering the burden of helping them make an impact in the upcoming season. Chhetri was the first Indian to score a hat-trick in the league and will be hoping to fire Bengaluru to title glory in Hero ISL 2017-18.

Pre-season form

The Blues got themselves prepped by warming up on home soil and picked up some positive results.

While Bengaluru are debutants in the ISL, they have been one of the more successful clubs in Indian football in recent times. They do not need much doing to hit the ground running and with a balanced squad, can surprise a few of the older sides.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Abhra Mondal, Calvin Abhishek, Lalthuammawia Ralte

Defenders: Boithang Haokip, Collin Abranches, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, John Johnson, Joyner Monte Lourenco, Juan Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez, Nishu Kumar, Rahul Shankar Bheke, Subhasish Bose

Midfielders: Alwyn George, Antonio Dovale Robinson, Dimas Delgado, Eduardo Garcia Martin, Erik Endel Paartalu, Lenny Rodrigues, Malsawmzuala, Zohmingliana Ralte

Forwards: Braulio Nobrega Rodriguez, Nicolas Ladislao Fedor Flores, Sunil Chhetri, Thongkhosiem Haokip, Udanta Singh Kumam

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