ATK (then Atletico de Kolkata) and Chennaiyin FC have both won the title twice but neither have successfully defended their crown. Bengaluru will be looking to create history after two successful years in the league.
Bengaluru topped the ISL table and made the finals in the last two editions of the tournament. The consistency shown by the newcomers remains unparalleled; No team had topped the table for two years running until Carles Cuadrat’s men achieved the feat.
Ahead of the 2019/20 season, the Blues have signed India international Ashique Kuruniyan, Chennaiyin FC midfielder Raphael Augusto, Spanish striker Manuel Onwu and former Bengaluru midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
Prolific goalscorer Miku, Spaniard Xisco Hernandez, and Boithang Haokip were among the among departures from the club. Although replacing a player of Miku’s quality is an arduous task, the defending champions have done a fair job by replicating the Blue Tigers’ front-line at the club level, with the addition of Ashique.
Augusto’s experience could enable him to develop a solid partnership with Erik Paartalu at the centre of the pitch. Injuries affected Lyngdoh’s season as he struggled to find playing time. But the midfielder is a player who has always identified with Bengaluru and the team will heavily benefit if a spark sets off the genius he displayed in the past.
Most importantly, the Blues’ managers have shown great continuity in philosophy going from one season to another. Once Albert Roca bid adieu, the then assistant manager Carles Cuadrat was offered his first senior job. What seemed like a gamble worked like a charm as the Spaniard added some pragmatism to Roca’s possession-based football and churned out a sustainable system that won the Blues their first ISL title.
The Blues won the 2018 Super Cup months after conceding the ISL title to Chennaiyin FC after a poor performance in the final. One year later, Bengaluru inflicted the pain on FC Goa in the final of the ISL to be crowned champions.
Cuadrat is still at the club and has the right players at his disposal. Bengaluru are hence bound to be the team to beat this season. Given no team has dominated the league with such consistency, Cuadrat’s men have the biggest opportunity to go all the way and defend the title.
However, the 50-year-old must ensure that his team is unaffected by complacency, having won their maiden ISL title just six months ago. The club prides itself on winning a title every year and it’s time they take it a notch above and win a domestic double.