The newlook Blues will be looking to make the most of home comforts as they look to go one better from last season.
Bengaluru FC, one of two new entrants into the Indian Super League (ISL) this year are determined to bring their winning mentality into India’s biggest footballing spectacle and show that they can cut it in the cash-rich league. The team is set to face North Korean club April 4.25 Sports Club and will be looking to recreate their success from last season, where they reached the finals of the AFC Cup. The game is set to be played on Wednesday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru.
The Blues had a relatively poor I-League campaign this year, but there was a reason to rejoice as the Steelmen took home the Federation Cup. After the ISL Draft, the team has taken a new look but has managed to ensure that the crux of the side has remained the same. The new foreign signings also speak massively about their quality themselves.
The club re-drafted Lenny Rodrigues, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Lalthuammawia Ralte, Alwyn George and Calvin Abhishek for a combined outlay of Rs 169 lakhs, and has brought in Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Antonio Rodriguez Dovale and Braulio Nobrega as well, albeit for the ISL season IV. The inclusion of Indian No. 1 Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from Stabaek FC has broken several records in Indian football and clearly shows that the intent of the club is in the right direction.
Tactical System (Probable)
How Bengaluru FC could lineup in a 3-4-1-2 formation
Under the bar, GSS will start, without an iota of doubt. John Johnson is unavailable for the AFC Cup games due to personal reasons, and we might see a back three or a back two. Known for his love for two foreign centre-backs, Roca could ask defensive midfielder Erik Paartalu to play the role alongside Juanan. In a system of three, Zohmingliana Ralte or Joyner Lourenco could get a look in.
If Bengaluru opt for a 3-4-3, Harmanjot Singh Khabra looks a certain starter on the RWB position with Rahul Bheke competing for the same. On the left, Nishu Kumar or Subhasish Bose could go for a fight. In the midfield, Lenny Rodriguez looks set to sit over the defense, with Dimas Delgado may start alongside him. Talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri will play the No. 10 role and lightning quick Udanta Singh and Antonio Dovale playing as the Right and Left attacking forwards. Daniel Lalhlimpuia could get a look in later in the game.
How Bengaluru FC could lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation
In the second situation, Bengaluru could also opt for a 4-2-3-1, which will see the team use most of the players at their disposal play in their preferred positions. GSS continues to be the undisputed leader at the back, with Juanan pairing up with Zotea Ralte in the heart of the defense. On the defensive flanks, Nishu Kumar and Khabra will get the nods.
In the defensive midfield, Lenny Rodriguez might have to give way to Dimas Delgado, who will pair up with Erik Paartalu, a role he’s adept at playing. The No. 10 role will go to Captain Sunil Chhetri again, an experienced hand who knows how to create chances out of nothing. New foreign signing Antonio Dovale will help out young Nishu Kumar on the left flank with Udanta sharing the duties with Khabra on the right. Up top, Daniel Lalhimpuia remains certain to start.
In case this changes, Antonio Dovale might switch positions with Sunil Chhetri. Former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal full backs Subhasish Bose and Rahul Bheke will also be eyeing the left back and right backs respectively. Bheke has also played the role of RWB in the past and will add competition to Khabra.
The visitors are likely to go with a five at the back in a 5-3-2 setup which is their mostly widely used system. Ri Kang will be in goal while the back five likely to include Kim CB, Pak JM and Ri Hyong M, with Pak MS and Kwon CH as the two wing-backs. The midfield will include the trio of Kim JC, Ri Hyong J and O Hyok C. Kim YS and An IB will be the strikers with Kim likely being the deeper of the two.
Man to Watch
Sunil Chhetri-Begalur FC: This vote will go to him until he hangs up his boots, inarguably. India’s finest player will again be entrusted to lead his side out against the powerful Korean side and will be expected to deliver at the penultimate stage like he did against Johor Darul Tazim last year. The captain looks fitter and hungrier than ever and in a bid to achieve things never-done-before, will give his everything to take the team to unheralded highs.
Kim Yu-song-4.25: The North Korean international has come through the ranks at both club and country and at 22 is one of the brighest prospects in the league. Having played for the DPRK’s U-19, u-20 and U-23 teams Yu-song also has six caps for the senior teams and two goals for his country.
The game is not live on TV. But, you can follow live streaming of the game on AFC Cup Facebook Page.
“It’s never easy at the start of the season. We have a new-look squad and had just four weeks to prepare. But we’re eager to get into action and are looking forward to the game. We had a good pre-season trip to Spain and we’ve been working hard in Bengaluru as well. A bunch of players from last season are still with us and we hope to carry forward the same form from the group stage,” said Head Coach Albert Roca speaking on the eve of the big clash.
“Johnson has been an important part of the club for the last four years, and we will definitely miss him. However, we’ve signed some good foreign players who bring in a lot of experience and will help us immensely in this competition. We’ve even included some deserving youngsters from our academy in the squad and they give us some great options in different positions,” added Roca while sharing his thoughts on the composition of the team.