Season preview: Bengaluru FC eye adding another feather to their cap
Bengaluru FC have proved they are worth their weight in gold in their three seasons so far in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) by making the play-offs every single time. Having lost narrowly in the playoffs against ATK FC last season, Carles Cuadrat and his men come into Hero ISL 2020-21 with a reinforced squad as they look to win the coveted trophy for a second time.
Cuadrat has ensured that his key players from their 2018-19 title-winning squad are still around. Besides two-time Golden Glove winner Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Hero ISL’s highest Indian goal-scorer Sunil Chhetri, the Spanish head coach has also managed to tie down defender Juanan and midfielders Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado.
A number of their young, talented players have also been retained, including Ashique Kuruniyan and most importantly Udanta Singh. The 24-year-old Udanta had a strong 2018-19 season, with five goals and three assists to help his side to the trophy, but he could not replicate a similar form last season, scoring just one goal. As Udanta’s future was in doubt, the club hierarchy showed its faith in him with a three-year contract extension.
However, Udanta was not the only player who suffered in front of goal last season. With just 22 goals, Bengaluru FC had the least number of goals among all the teams in the top four.
Seemingly having that in mind, Cuadrat has brought in a number of experienced attackers to complement their star striker Chhetri and Deshorn Brown. They will be joined by Norwegian striker Kristian Opseth and Brazilian winger Cleiton Silva, who comes to the Hero ISL with a lot of success in Thailand. Moreover, Naorem Singh finds himself in the squad after promotion from the academy.
However, Cuadrat was tasked with replacing a few defenders from the last three seasons. While Albert Serran left the club to explore options outside India, Nishu Kumar joined Kerala Blasters FC, forcing Cuadrat to bring in Francisco Gonzalez and Ajith Kumar, both of whom are fairly seasoned in Indian football.
Both the players have won the Hero I-League for their respective clubs; Ajith with Chennai City FC during the 2018-19 season and Francisco with Mohun Bagan AC during the 2019-20 campaign. Francisco scored ten goals for his side last season and was the second highest joint-goalscorer in the league as well. In a further boost to the defence, Pratik Chaudhari has also been brought in from Mumbai City FC.
Best Finish: 2018-19 Hero ISL Champions
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Lara Sharma, Sharon
Defenders: Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Francisco Gonzalez, Ajith Kumar, Joe Zoherliana, Biswa Darjee, Namgyal Bhutia, Parag Srivas, Pratik Chaudhari, Wungngayam Muirang
Midfielders: Dimas Delgado, Erik Paartalu, Suresh Wangjam, Thoi Singh, Ajay Chhetri, Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha, Amay Morajkar, Harmanjot Khabra, Cleiton Silva
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Kristian Opseth, Ashique Kuruniyan, Deshorn Brown, Udanta Singh, Edmund Lalrindika, Leon Augustin, Semboi Haokip, Naorem Singh
vs FC Goa - November 22
vs Hyderabad FC - November 28
vs Chennaiyin FC - December 04
vs NorthEast United FC - December 08
vs Kerala Blasters FC - December 13
vs Odisha FC - December 17
vs ATK Mohun Bagan - December 21
vs Jamshedpur FC - December 28
vs Mumbai City FC - January 05
vs SC East Bengal - January 09
*Fixture list for Bengaluru FC announced as of now