Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca, in his two-year stint in India, has had mixed success. He won a Federation Cup, guided the Blues to the final of the AFC Cup 2016 and reached the final of the Indian Super League (ISL). But he also oversaw a disappointing fourth-place finish in the I-League in 2017 before their jump to ISL.
The Spanish tactician has now seen his side reach the final of the inaugural Super Cup and standing in their way are the Kolkata giants East Bengal. The Red and Golds are familiar opponents for Roca despite the two teams playing in different leagues right now.
In the 2017 I-League season, Roca's Bengaluru FC came up against East Bengal twice and came out second-best on both occasions.
Bengaluru, the defending champions, had made an electric start to the I-League and won their first three games convincingly before they made the trip to a hostile Kolkata in January 2017. Roca started with a four-man defence with Sena Ralte and Harmanjot Khabra playing as fullbacks. And things looked rosy when CK Vineeth put them into the lead early on.
But Ugandan defender Ivan Bukenya would equalise before East Bengal's direct game would prove to be the undoing of a team that was just adapting to Roca's philosophy. Robin Singh would score the winner on the night and Bengaluru would go on a winless run of seven games which effectively derailed their season.
Roca's next date with Trevor Morgan's East Bengal would come in late February. Bengaluru had still not won a game after their debacle in Kolkata and this was a perfect opportunity for the Blues to reinvigorate their season.
Roca switched to his favoured three-man backline for this game with Salam Ranjan Singh, Sandesh Jhingan and Juanan at the back. But Trinidadian attacking midfielder Wedson Anselme would put East Bengal into the lead as Roca's men struggled to match the physicality shown by the Red and Golds.
Robin Singh would come back to haunt his former team with a second half brace that effectively ended their hopes of an unlikely title.
Though Bengaluru shifted to the ISL in the following season, the Super Cup has brought the two teams together on the field yet again. Albert Roca does not have fond memories of playing East Bengal but the 54-year-old can argue that his two clashes against the Red and Golds came at a time when his team was struggling to adapt to his system and philosophy.
Now, there is no question that Bengaluru FC is Roca's team. Their emphasis on ball possession and the ability to switch between three and four-man defences with ease has been there to see for all. But this is the final chance for them to translate that into something tangible.
Can Roca pull one over East Bengal this time around?