Bengaluru FC Learned to Defend as a Team in Pre-Season: Sunil Chhetri Ahead of AFC Cup
This will be new head coach Carles Cuadrat's official debut after he took over from Albert Roca who returned to Spain following the Blues' Super Cup win and qualification for the knockout stages of the AF Cup.
Cuadrat is no stranger to the club, though. He had served as Roca's assistant in the I-League and the ISL.
"We have been working for more than one month now," Cuadrat said. "We prepared at our training camp in Bellary and, after that, we went to Spain for a training camp. I'm really happy with the attitude of the boys and the staff as they get ready for the game."
For the Blues, it is a new season. However, the Turkmen side are in the middle of their season and sit second in the Yokary Liga. They only had a break for the World Cup but have since resumed their campaign.
Will that make a difference to Bengaluru who last played an official competitive fixture back in May?
"I'm really happy with the preparation," the Spanish coach said. "The players have been working hard over the past few weeks. I think we are ready to be competitive."
Bengaluru FC played four pre-season friendlies in Spain over the past couple of weeks which included games against high-quality opponents such as Villarreal B and Barcelona B.
"The tough games in Spain gave us a lot of minutes and taught us how to play such games in that level of competition."
Bengaluru learned a lot in pre-season: Chhetri
The Blues had failed to register a win in their pre-season tour of Spain, losing all four fixtures. But skipper Sunil Chhetri explained that it was a learning experience, especially when they played Barcelona B.
"Against Barcelona B we didn't create any chances," he explained. "As a striker, I would have still been happy if we had created chances even if we missed. But we created only two half-chances and that was difficult.
"The level of the game and their speed was different. If we keep playing Barcelona B every week then we might improve and get better. But if we play them just once in a year, the speed is so different - it's something we don't experience here.
"We had to work hard to defend well. The first thing we learned was to defend as a team," Chhetri continued. "There were a lot of voices on the pitch, a lot of talking. [Harmanjot] Khabra, Rino [Anto], Rahul [Bheke], Erik [Paartalu], and Xisco [Hernandez] were talking to each other.
"We were all talking to each other, making a chain and making sure that we all come back and defend. You generally don't see BFC doing that here. We're quite open-minded and we attack a lot.
"But for Miku to not touch the ball for 30 minutes and to come back and mark their midfielder was one of the best learnings that we had. If we're in a situation where we have to come back and defend or if we're down to 10 men, god forbid, we will make life difficult for the other team.
"That, I think, is the most important thing that we learned [in pre-season]."
Bengaluru FC Team News
For the home side, Cuadrat will miss the services of Harmanjot Khabra as he is down with chicken pox. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh had also been diagnosed with chicken pox which saw him miss the first half of pre-season.
"We just had some problems with two cases of chicken pox," the new coach said. "This is the first time I've seen that in a professional team. We also have a few muscle injuries which are normal.
"Khabra is out with chicken pox - don't get too close to him! It is our second case [after Gurpreet] so we have to work without him. Dimas [Delgado] is also out with pain in the adductor.
"[Sairuat] Kima also has a little problem. These are the only players who will not participate in the first game."
The first leg will be played in Bengaluru at the Kanteerava Stadium on 22 August at 8 PM.