Bengaluru wary of Chencho threat ahead of AFC Cup tie against Paro FC
Reigning Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) champions Bengaluru FC get their 2020 AFC Cup campaign up and running with a Preliminary Stage 2 clash against Bhutanese side Paro FC in Thimphu, on Wednesday. Paro, the 2019 Bhutan Premier League champions, not only represent a tough hurdle for the Blues to overcome but will also bring them up against a very familiar face - Chencho Gyeltshen.
Chencho, also called the Bhutanese Ronaldo, was part of Carles Cuadrat's Bengaluru side during Hero ISL 2018-19 and played a role in the team winning the Hero ISL title last season. Having worked closely with the nippy forward, Cuadrat and most of the Bengaluru team are well-aware of the considerable threat the 23-year-old poses. At the pre-match press conference ahead of the tie, Cuadrat acknowledged the same and said, "Chencho is a great person and a great footballer. I'm happy to see him again. We've been in touch. He's a great player for sure, but I hope that he won't be at his best on Wednesday."
Chencho, however, won't be the only thorn in Bengaluru's way come Wednesday. In-form Cameroonian midfielder Dieudonné Fabassou will also pose a tough test for the Bengaluru squad, which will be eager to get a win to aid their ambitions for featuring in the group stages. Reiterating their will to embark on another productive continental campaign, a trait closely associated with Bengaluru over the last four years or so, Cuadrat said, "We are preparing very well, because we love playing in this competition. The AFC Cup brings back good memories, travelling all over Asia to represent India and playing finals and semi-finals. It's very nice to come to Bhutan to play this game."
Bengaluru, on Monday, named a very young 30-man squad for the preliminary stages, with as many as nine B team players, including three U18 players - Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha, Sridarth Nongmeikapam and Johnson Singh Laishram - making the list. Justifying the decision, Cudrat noted, "The AFC Cup allows me to register 30 players and I believe we have players with good talent coming in from the youth teams. It will be nice for them to play a game like this."
The squad, however, is a strong unit, featuring some of Bengaluru's key players like Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Juanan, Deshorn Brown, Erik Paartalu and new Spanish recruit Nili Perdomo. With the Hero ISL 2019-20 season back in India at a crucial stage, it was expected that Cuadrat might have opted to rest a few more of his big-name players. Sharing a little tidbit about how Chhetri almost forced himself into the list, Cuadrat quipped, "I said to Sunil that now would be a good time for you to get some rest and he said 'Mister, forget about rest. I want to go to Bhutan'. So yeah, that's why he's here."
Chhetri, who accompanied the gaffer to the briefing, meanwhile, said, "We are rivals on the pitch on Wednesday, but I hope that as clubs, Bengaluru FC and Paro FC put on a good show of football."