Champions Bengaluru FC take on confident Dempo in I-League opener
Bengaluru: I-League champions Bengaluru FC begin the defence of their historic title when they play familiar foes Dempo SC in what promises to be a humdinger of a season opener at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Saturday.
The two teams squared off in the final of the Federation Cup only a week ago where Ashley Westwood’s Blues won their second piece of silverware beating Dempo 1-2 at the Nehru Stadium, in Fatorda. The triumph took Bengaluru’s record against the Goan club to three wins in as many games but the Englishman refuses to rely on past results.
“We’ve just got to judge it as what it is really - it’s just another football match. Until we see the team sheets, we won’t be able to judge anything based on history or from what we’ve done before. You’re only as good as you are in your last football match, but this is a new one and hopefully we’ll put in a good performance,” said Westwood at a pre-match press conference.
The gaffer provided an update on the condition of the pitch at the Kanteerava Stadium – the Blues’ new home, maintaining that the move from artificial to natural grass would not affect the team. “The turf is a massive improvement from where it was when I last saw it three weeks ago. It’s a work in progress as is the football club because we’ve only had a short amount of time to turn the turf around, but in the end it’s a football pitch, it’s the standard size and that’s all that matters.”
With new additions to the squad, Bengaluru cruised to the Federation Cup title without dropping a game and skipper Sunil Chhetri expressed his content about the team’s preseason preparation.
“We’ve definitely improved as a squad since the new players have come in. We all saw Eugeneson (Lyngdoh) during the Federation Cup, Lalchhuanmawia came in and he played a big part too. Udanta (Singh) was injured during the course of the tournament, but he’s fit now and we’ll soon see what he’s all about.”
Westwood said he had a completely fit squad at his disposal and the inclusion of midfielder Joshua Walker who limped out of the Fed Cup final with a hamstring strain, would be subject to tests on the morning of the game.
Dempo, meanwhile, have injury concerns of their own and skipper Clifford Miranda admitted that defender Haroon Amiri and striker Tolgay Ozbey join him on the list of probable starters after the trio picked up injuries over the course of the Federation Cup.
The game, played under floodlights, will kick off at 7 pm and the gates at the Kanteerava will be opened at 5.30 pm.