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Indian Super League 2018/19: After AFC Cup upset, Bengaluru FC eye redemption

Bengaluru FC are back with a new manager and renewed hope for glory, leaving behind the heartbreak of their loss in the final and their failure to progress in the AFC Cup.

Written by Karan Prashant Saxena | Updated: September 28, 2018 3:15:29 pm
The Super Cup title a month later meant little to skipper Chhetri. (Source: ISL/File)

“We knew the format, we cannot complain about that. We dominated each and every team in the ISL, but losing the final due to two corners which were our mistake, it still hurts,” Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri spoke about the Indian Super League 2017-18 final defeat against Chennaiyin FC at a media event in May.

The Blues had everything going for them in their inaugural season last year – a dominant start as everyone expected; top of the table in round robin stage and an easy ticket to the final. But in a matter of less than 30 minutes, Bengaluru FC committed two defensive errors that saw an end to their title hopes. The 3-2 loss in the final meant the club missing out on their first trophy since 2016.

The Super Cup title a month later meant little to skipper Chhetri. “After the Super Cup win, we were happy for 30 minutes, but after that, we sat down and thought, ‘What did we miss’. We did not mark the two corners properly; those two corners still haunt us,” he said at the event.

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With the new season set to begin this week, Bengaluru FC will have a shot at redemption, to bring the ISL trophy home – something their fans believe should have been won the last season. Things, though, are no longer exactly the same.

The franchise have lost their previous guard this season. Albert Roca resigned from his coaching duties after two years to be with his family, only for his assistant Carles Cuadrat to take over. Under Cuadrat, Bengaluru FC went on to lose AFC Cup semi-final 5-3 on aggregate against Turkmenistan club Altyn Asyr last month and were knocked out.

The pre-season for the club has also not gone according to plans as they lost all their games against clubs from Spain, which included 1-0 loss against Villarreal B and a 3-0 loss against Barcelona B. On return to India, Bengaluru FC also lost a friendly fixture against Chennai City FC.

But despite the disappointing lead up to the season, Cuadrat will hope his side can fire strongly in the ISL and have second bite at the cherry. On paper, Bengaluru FC’s squad still appears to be one of the the best in the competition.

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Bengaluru FC have not made too many changes and retained the core of their team. Miku, who scored 15 goals last season, is still in the team, along with the midfielder Erik Partaalu. Chhetri, who scored 14 goals in the previous season, will be leading the team and the return of Dimas Delgado, who was ruled out last season due to injuries, further boosts the midfield. Add the new signings Francisco ‘Xisco’ Hernandez and Kean Lewis to the mix, and Bengaluru FC appear to have a solid attacking set-up.

The franchise gave away just 20 goals last year, only two more than Jamshedpur FC, who conceded the least number of goals. Despite losing star defender John Johnson to ATK, the club still boast of having India’s best goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, with the likes of Juanan Gonzalez in the centre-back position and Rahul Bheke and Albert Serran alongside him. The club has also acquired the services of Rino Anto and Nishu to solve their full-back woes from the previous year.

Overall, Bengaluru FC appear to be a strong squad once again, and will enter the ISL once again as one of the favourites. But whether the club can cope up with the pressure and redeem themselves with the title, will be interesting to see.

Bengaluru FC Squad:

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Soram Poirei Anganba, Aditya Patra (U21)

Defenders: Juanan Gonzalez, Rahul Bheke, Albert Serran, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Rino Anto, Nishu Kumar, Sairuat Kima, Asheer Akhtar, Gursimrat Singh Gill

Midfielders: Erik Paartalu, Kean Lewis, Dimas Delgado, Francisco ‘Xisco’ Hernandez, Bidyananda Singh, Boithang Haokip, Altamash Sayed, Ajay Chhetri (U21)

Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Nicolas Ladislao Fedor ‘Miku’, Udanta Singh, Chencho Gyeltshen, Thongkhosiem Haokip

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