Ashley Westwood's side couldn't have asked for a tougher start to their league campaign though the absence of Bagan skipper Odafa Okolie will help...
Thanks to All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) initiative to bring in more investors into the game, the city of Bangalore has got an I-League club which has a guaranteed stay in the top division for the next three seasons.
Named Bengaluru FC, the team has gone about their business in the transfer market smartly. Having managed to attract the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh, it was a statement of intent from the owners of the club that they mean business.
The team is expected to line-up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Johnny Menyongar playing in the hole behind the two strikers. His will be a key role which is link the midfield with the attack and thereby provide the through balls for the strikers to feed on.
"We are just looking to form the perfect base and platform needed for the team. As I said before, we have no set targets for the season. We are trying to build a nice team spirit here. Our aim is to put a platform in place to improve, put good work ethics down, put some general football education in place and work and grow as a team,” said coach Ashley Westwood on his season’s target.
The club has roped in several youngsters who failed to make the cut at their previous teams and it would be an opportunity for them to prove their mettle. The likes of Thoi Singh, Malemngamba Meetei and Lalrozama Fanai would hope to get their careers in the right direction after having endured a not so good season last term.
Sean Rooney, who was asked to pack his bags midway through the last season by Salgaocar FC after being roped in by the now Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa, will be keen to make a mark as well.
On the other hand, Mohun Bagan have been crippled with their star striker Odafa Okolie recuperating from an injury. Anthony Pereira has been left out of the squad after the player refused to accept a wage cut mooted b y certain section of club officials.
Coach Karim Bencherifa will hope for a positive start to his campaign after all the negativity surrounding the side, on and off the field, last season following the infamous derby episode.
While the club’s officials and fans want their side to aim for the league title, they haven’t done enough in the summer to strengthen the squad. Instead they are planning to release Anthony Pereira off their roster which could cripple Bencherifa’s team further.
Their key player of the season will be Katsumi Yusa and Bengaluru defensive pairing of Curtis Osano and John Johnson will need to keep an eye on the Japanese who is deadly from set-pieces as well. Eric Muranda will hope to win over the Bagan faithful by putting in a commendable performance in the absence of Odafa.
“We want to win the opening game," was the short but important message relayed by Bencherifa on the eve of the tie.
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