Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri feels the growing competition for places in the current squad has made it harder for him to cement a place in the starting XI and he will have to work harder to ensure that he plays every game under head coach Simon Grayson.

Bengaluru FC recently won the Durand Cup and youngster Sivasakthi Narayanan scored five goals and is pushing the likes of Roy Krishna and Chhetri for a place in the starting XI.

The Bengaluru FC skipper welcomes this atmosphere and feels it will help get the best out of the players.

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Chhetri also expressed eexcitement about the return of the fans to the stadiums and is looking forward to playing in front of a packed Sree Kanteerava stadium after more than two years.

The 38-year-old spoke to the media during the pre-match press conference ahead of the NorthEast United FC match.

Here are the excerpts from the press conference:

How much are you looking forward to playing in front of the fans again at the Kanteerava after two years? There will be some new teams visiting here like East Bengal FC, so what are you expecting?

We're really happy to be back in the stadiums when fans are allowed. I remember each and every bit before the Covid-19 times. I can't wait. We got a glimpse of it, the national team boys, in Kolkata, and also in the Durand Cup.

We can't wait to play for all supporters. We're as excited as the fans are. The two and half years without the fans were really difficult. The added motivation to play in front of fans is different and now we know the value of it.

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How different will you approach this game given the crowds are returning?

The approach is similar, apart from the fact that we don't have to stay in a bubble. We've got a new coach, and we've had 8-10 weeks with him. The whole effort was to understand what he wants going forward. We have some new faces, some experienced ones. We want to apply ourselves as well as possible.

It always helps when you have a gaffer who knows exactly what he wants. The information is very crisp and to the point. It helps because then you have very small bits to take care of. In that context we are doing really well, all the boys are chipping in. He doesn't know anyone so I or Namgyal Bhutia has an equal chance. So that has created good competition in the team.

What are you most looking forward to this season?

I think the biggest strength we had was that we were a team. If we see the Durand Cup and the number of players that have played. I don't think we can call ourselves a team with individual brilliance. We are going to work very hard and make it difficult for every team that we play against and that I feel is going to be the most important weapon we have.

On a personal level, I'm just trying to do my best to make sure I get into the starting eleven. You're laughing, but I'm serious. The kind of competition we have in the team, it's getting difficult because we've got some really good young players who are pushing us. There are some seniors who are insecure about keeping their place and that's the best team you can be part of because no one's position is guaranteed and everyone is working very hard.