Bengaluru FC squad, season preview, prediction | ISL 2019-20
The Indian Super League (ISL) begins again on the 20th of October, and starting from today, Sportskeeda will bring you detailed season previews for each of the ten teams, as the league, in its sixth edition, prepares to welcome two new teams in Odisha FC and Hyderabad FC.
We start off our previews by looking at the champions, and the most consistent side in the ISL in the last two seasons - also the only two they have featured in.
Bengaluru FC will look to become the first side in the short history of the ISL to retain their crown, as they look to repeat their heroics from last season, when they capped off a stellar season with Rahul Bheke's looping header deep into extra-time giving them the win in the final against FC Goa in Mumbai.
The JSW-owned outfit had a season to remember in 2018-19, going on the longest unbeaten run ever in the ISL, when they evaded defeat for their first 11 games. They also finished the season unbeaten at home, at their Fortress - the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
After much deliberation and doubt, it does look like Bengaluru will have their Fortress for this edition of the ISL, with the Blues earlier having enlisted the Balewadi Stadium in Pune as their home venue, for the AIFF club licensing process.
But according to several media reports, the Karnataka Government's Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES) has given Bengaluru FC the go-ahead to stage their matches at the Kanteerava.
It was an unnecessary distraction for Bengaluru in their off-season, which also saw them sign a technical partnership with Scottish giants Rangers FC. But when the football begins in the ISL, one can be assured that Carles Cuadrat and Sunil Chhetri will demand nothing less than perfection from their team.
The Blues' pre-season has been restricted to within Karnataka, with a ten-day camp at JSW Sports' Inspire Institute of Sport in Bellary. They played two friendlies there, beating Churchill Brothers 3-1, and losing to Gokulam Kerala FC by the same scoreline.
Bengaluru FC Squad
The big news in the off-season was undoubtedly the departure of their Venezuelan superstar Miku, who left the club at the end of his two-year deal to join Cypriot side Omonoia. The Blues gave extensions to Spaniards Dimas Delgado and Albert Serran, while Juanan Gonzalez and Erik Paartalu enter the final year of contracts they'd agreed at the beginning of last season.
Bengaluru pulled off something of a coup, as well, securing the services of Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto from Chennaiyin FC. Spanish striker Manuel Onwu, though, has the biggest boots to fill, with him being expected to fill in the rather large hole left by Miku.
Indian youngsters Suresh Singh Wangjam and Prabhsukhan Singh Gill joined from the Arrows, but what has left the West Block Blues in mouthwateringly high spirits are the two other additions.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh has returned to a club he calls home, while the Blues' firepower has been boosted with the addition of Ashique Kuruniyan, who signed a four-year deal after moving from FC Pune City.
Full Bengaluru FC squad
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Aditya Patra
Defenders: Rahul Bheke, Juanan Gonzalez, Albert Serran, Nishu Kumar, Rino Anto, Sairuat Kima, Gursimrat Singh Gill, Parag Shrivas
Midfielders: Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Raphael Augusto, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Kean Lewis, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Ajay Chhetri
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Manuel Onwu, Thongkosiem Haokip, Edmund Lalrindika
As has been Bengaluru's mantra since the club was formed, there is continuity in terms of their coaching staff. Head coach Carles Cuadrat signed an extension to his contract at the end of last season, and will look to once again take the Blues to the top of the ISL.
Cuadrat, on the first day of the club's pre-season training in Bengaluru, had said that the first target for him was to qualify for the playoffs, and that they would take things from there.
He has a new lieutenant by his side for the new season, though, with former assistant coach Gerard Zaragoza having left to join Shabab Al-Ahli FC in Dubai. Oriol Lozano, the former Racing Santander defender, will be Cuadrat's assistant coach for the season.
It's hard to see how this Bengaluru side don't make the playoffs, at the very least. They are well-equipped in every area of the field. They've got exciting youngsters to compliment some outstanding senior pros. And most importantly, they seem to have covered some of the weaknesses in their squad, with some shrewd recruitment.
Lyngdoh and Wangjam add depth to the midfield, and in Kuruniyan, they have someone who is expected to take a little bit of the goalscoring burden off Sunil Chhetri. Once you make the semifinal, it is a bit of a lottery with the format, but with a fearsome front three of Chhetri, Kuruniyan and Udanta Singh, a battle-hardened midfield with the likes of Paartalu, Delgado, Augusto and Lyngdoh, and a solid rearguard, Bengaluru will dare to dream again. That's for certain.
How high will the Blues fly? That's anyone's guess. Can they soar the highest once again? They certainly can.