Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson is anticipating a challenging game as they face Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the opening fixture of matchweek 2 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday.

While the Blues had a winning start to their ISL campaign last season, they were unable to replicate the same this season, narrowly losing 2-1 to their southern rivals, Kerala Blasters FC, in the opening match of the ISL 2023-24 season. Now, they are set to face one of the strongest sides in the league, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, away from home.

The Mariners are coming off a 3-1 victory against the newly-promoted Punjab FC, and Grayson believes another tough fixture awaits them on Wednesday.

“Last year, we won the first game, so it is a bit different (in that respect). I think it’s very early in terms of analysing our performances too much. It was a tough game in Kerala which it always is, for a lot of teams. But also, the rivalry that is between the two teams. So, (it was) not an easy game for us,” Grayson said in the pre-match press conference.

“After every game, we analyse what we need to do better in possession and out of possession. Wednesday night is going to be a really tough game for us. Mohun Bagan Super Giant have probably got the strongest squad in the league I think,” he added.

After the defeat against Kerala Blasters FC, the Englishman stated that the beginning of a new season is always challenging, and his players would require a few more games to establish confidence among themselves.

Grayson acknowledged the threat posed by the Mariners' squad, but he also believes that he has a talented group of players who can upset any team when they perform to their full potential.

“We've got a good group of players, we're confident in how pre-season has gone and looking forward to a tough game, but one that we know we can win if we perform to our capabilities,” said the Englishman.

The two sides met in the final of the ISL 2022-23 season, where the Mariners staged a remarkable comeback and won on penalties to lift the ISL Cup. Grayson aims to put that last outing behind them and focus on the upcoming tie. He hopes to replicate their victorious performance against Mohun Bagan Super Giant from their last meeting in Kolkata last season.

“Whatever happened in the past is history. But now it's about moving forward. And hopefully, we can do what we did last year in Kolkata when we came here and won,” he stated.

“We want to be hard to play, and to show flair and attacking ability to try and hurt the opposition. So the right balance of keeping clean sheets and also asking questions in the attacking third,” added Grayson.

Suresh Singh Wangjam joined Grayson in the pre-match press conference. The tireless midfielder, a constant presence in the Blues' midfield, shared his thoughts on his motivation on the pitch. The 23-year-old elaborated on what drives him during matches.

“Whenever I step on the pitch, I want to win every ball and win the game. That’s my motivation, and it somehow comes automatically to me,” Wangjam said.

Bengaluru FC will once again be without their captain, Sunil Chhetri, who is currently occupied with national duties in the Asian Games. Wangjam emphasized the impact of missing their captain but also saw it as a valuable opportunity for other players to step up and make their presence felt.

“Sunil bhai is our captain and everyone knows about his goalscoring abilities. Obviously, we really miss him but we cannot do anything until the Asian Games are over. This is an opportunity for other players to step up and prove to the coach that they deserve to be in the team,” he opined.