Preview: Matchweek 1 - Upbeat Bengaluru FC seeks winning start against new-look NorthEast United FC
Football and fans return to the Sri Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, Karnataka this Saturday, as Bengaluru FC host NorthEast United FC for their respective opening matches of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL).
Bengaluru FC will be looking to put last season's finish behind them and challenge for the title in front of their fans again. The Blues have already won the Durand Cup this season and have seen some of their new signings shine in the process.
With the acquisition of Fijian forward Roy Krishna from ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC have two of the five leading scorers in Hero ISL history in their squad for the coming season. The 2018-19 Hero ISL winners have also signed 22-year-old Faisal Ali from Mohammedan SC. Coach Simon Grayson said his team wasn't in danger of complacency after winning the Durand Cup.
"The football club over the last few years have not been successful, when we’re used to having success," he said. "So because we've won one trophy, it's a great start for us, we're all positive. But we’re certainly not over-confident. Because we know the ISL is different to the Durand Cup. We have a good group, a good mixture of experienced players, and younger players who are trying to make their way into the game. I think we’re all quite level-headed."
Last season, Bengaluru FC started the campaign against the same opponents. The Blues pocketed all three points with a stellar 4-2 victory over NorthEast United. However, right after the win, Bengaluru FC went winless for seven successive games. This was their second-longest winless run in the Hero ISL after their eight-game winless run in the 2020-21 season. NorthEast United FC finished tenth in the league last season and conceded 43 goals.
To solidify their defence, the Highlanders have brought in the likes of Gaurav Bora, Michael Jakobsen and Aaron Evans in defence and Arindam Bhattacharya to compete with Mirshad Michu for the goalkeeper spot.
"We know that it will be a tough game against a very strong team that is doing well," said NorthEast's coach Marco Balbul. "But we have done good preparation. We rebuilt with a new young team and with experienced foreigners [and] that helps us well. So we’ve done good preparation to win this game and we’ll do our best to win this game."
Federico Gallego departed the club after four years as NorthEast United have brought Nigerian striker Sylvester Emeka Igboun into the squad to fill the void. The Highlanders have also signed Gokulam duo Emil Benny and Jithin MS along with the promising teenager Parthib Gogoi.
Here to play our style, win for our fans, and make them happy: NorthEast United FC head coach Marco Balbul
Defenders Aaron Evans and Michael Jakobsen are expected to boost the NorthEast United defence with a wealth of experience. Jakobsen has more than 200 appearances in the Danish Superliga and has five caps with Denmark.
Bengaluru FC have played NorthEast United twelve times in the league and Sunil Chhetri has featured in every game, scoring a total of three goals and providing three assists. In twelve encounters, The Blues have won six games while The Highlanders have won two.