The slate is clean, the calendar new and there’s been a bit of chopping and changing in personnel, but Bengaluru FC’s plan of being crowned I-League champions again remains unchanged as Albert Roca’s boys begin their 2016-17 campaign against Shillong Lajong at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Saturday.
History backs the Blues who have come out victors in all three meetings between the sides in the League in Bengaluru. But Roca chooses to look the other way. “We are going to be up against a very competitive team from what I have seen and it’s important that we are giving 100% in every department in the pitch if we want to start our campaign on the right note.”
Asked if Bengaluru’s stunning run in the AFC Cup and the fact that they are reigning champions in the League puts pressure on his side, Roca begged to differ. “There’s absolutely no pressure on us. If anything the success in the AFC Cup has boosted our morale and we will look to carry that mentality in the League. We will surely need to perform at our best from the first game to the last but we won’t be doing it under any pressure.”
The Blues have shopped extensively, signing as many as five players on loan in a bid to add depth to the squad and bolster every position across the pitch. And Roca said he was happy with the way the new boys have picked up the system. “These are players who have played for and against experienced teams so that makes things easier for us. They have done well to adapt to our style in a short time and will only get better with time.”
However, a host of injuries have dented Bengaluru’s preparations for the season-opener and the champions will be without Rino Anto, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Keegan Pereira, Salam Ranjan Singh and Lalchhuanmawia. But coach Roca exuded confidence in the squad available for the game. “It’s a shame that injuries will keep these key players out but we cannot dwell on this. Some of them are out for longer periods than the others and that’s where depth in squad will come into play. We have a versatile set of players and that helps,” said Roca.
Lajong, meanwhile, have rung in changes of their own with the signings of three new foreign players. Joining striker Fabio Pena in attack is Cameroonian striker Aser Pierrick Dipanda, who turned out for DSK Shivajians last season. While midfielder Yuta Kinowaki and defender Dan Ignat are the other additions.
Press Release by Bengaluru FC