Defending Indian Super League (ISL) champion Bengaluru FC will be keen to pick up from where it left off last season when it meets NorthEast United FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Monday.
While BFC coach Carles Cuadrat admitted it’s ‘strange’ that none of the teams have been able to retain the title, he said he has asked his players to focus on making it to the play-offs first. “I tell my boys to be competitive so that we can reach the last four. Then one bad game and you are out, it is not abnormal. Our job right now is to qualify for the play-offs. After that, we will do our best to clinch the ISL championship,” said Cuadrat.
Despite the departure of the stars of the previous season, NorthEast has made substantial acquisitions and Cuadrat remains wary of the Highlanders. “NEUFC is a completely different team with a different coach, so I am expecting a lot of competition. The side has made some good signings like Asamoah Gyan. It is going to be a tough game for us,” he pointed out.
Though Sunil Chhetri-captained Bengaluru is the holder, Cuadrat is under no illusions that it is going to be an easy season. The Spaniard felt the other teams have upped their game and expects the race to the play-offs to be a close one. “It is going to be difficult for us this season. Many sides have spent a lot of money and they are going to be very competitive. So, we have to keep working but not feel the pressure.”
The Blues made some additions to the squad in the summer, with striker Manuel Onwu given the unenviable task of replacing the prolific Miku. “We had to leave Miku because of economics. But the new players have all the skill-sets we want,” he explained. Meanwhile, according to NorthEast gaffer Robert Jarni, the new BFC recruits will pose some trouble for the Highlanders.
“Bengaluru has made some changes from last season. Also, we have some new players. We believe we can do something good against the host. We are confident and will try to get the three points,” remarked the Croatian.