Reigning I-League champions and AFC Cup 2016 runners up Bengaluru FC begin their bid for a 3rd I-League title in a tricky encounter against North-eastern side Shillong Lajong FC at home on Saturday, 7th January.
The Steelmen look to pick up from where they left off last season that saw the Garden City club win the league title in style in addition to putting up a highly impressive to the final of the AFC Cup where they narrowly lost to Iraq’s Air Force Club.
While history is on the side of the Blues, Shillong Lajong FC are no pushovers. The team which has a solid core of young players from the club’s academy have always been a tough nut to crack thanks to the positivity that Thangboi Singto has inculcated into the club ranks.
Bengaluru will take heart from the fact that they have won all 3 I-League encounters they have had with Lajong so far. However, club gaffer Albert Roca will no doubt remove any traces of complacency that the team may have as they prepare for a crucial league season ahead of them.
Bengaluru will be without key defender Rino Anto, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Keegan Pereira, Salam Ranjan Singh and Lalchhuanmawia. The rest of the squad is available for selection.
Lajong on the other hand will be handing starts to their 3 foreign recruits. Romanian Dan Gelu Ignat, Japanese midfielder Yuta Kinowaki and Cameroonian striker Aser Pierrick Dipanda will take to the pitch at the Kanteerava stadium as they look to make a quick mark on the I-League.
Head to Head
The Steelmen hold the advantage in this match as they have had 3 victories in 3 meetings between the 2 clubs in the I-League.
Player to Watch
Sunil Chhetri-Bengaluru FC: Captain, Leader and Legend in the eyes of the Bengaluru FC. Chhetri, now 32 years of age, is in the form of his life and will look to add another I-League title to his already filled trophy room. The former Dempo man is one that will be a thorn in the side of the opposition defenders and will be a key player in Albert Roca’s bid to win his maiden I-League title.
Aser Dipanda Dika-Shillong Lajong FC: The Cameroonian striker will look to hit the ground running as he integrates into his new team. Although he will up against a formidable Bengaluru defence, the former Valencia B player will look to replicate his form for DSK Shivajians in the 2015-16 season where he scored 6 times in 11 games.
Bengaluru FC (4-2-3-1): Amrinder, Nishu, Juanan, Johnson, Khabra, Lenny, Watson, Chhetri, Eugeneson, Vineeth, Norales.
Shillong Lajong (4-2-3-1): Kaith, Pritam, Sanna Ignat, Tamanag, Ralte, Yuta, Bipin, Dipanda, Isaac, Fabio.
The game will be broadcast live on Ten Sports 2 at 07:00 pm IST. You can also follow live commentary of the game on www.khelnow.com