I-League 2017 | Bengaluru FC to play Shillong Lajong in the opening game
Bengaluru FC will begin their I-league title defence by playing against Shillong Lajong at their home fort - the Sree Kanteerava Stadium - in the inaugural game of the new season on 7th January. East Bengal will lock horns with Aizawl FC at the Barasat Stadium in the other match of the opening day.
The 2016-17 edition of the I-League will see the participation of 10 teams after the addition of Minerva Punjab FC and Chennai City FC. Both of these clubs were given permission to field their teams after the AIFF Bid Evaluation Committee awarded them the status to play in the top-tier.
The new entrants in the top-tier will square off against each other on January 8. On the same day, former champions Mohun Bagan will take on Churchill Brothers at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata while Mumbai FC will play DSK Shivajians.
Churchill Brothers were dumped out of I-League in 2014 for their failure to fulfill club-licensing criteria but have now returned to the top division after missing out two seasons.
AFC Cup finalist Bengaluru FC will have to face tough conditions due to back-to-back matches in both I-League and the AFC Champions League. Bengaluru FC will travel to Jordan for their preliminary stage 2 match of the AFC Champions League against Al Wehdat on 31st January, after playing Churchill Brothers in Goa in a fifth round I-League match on January 27.
After their historic campaign, the Alberto Roca-coached side had earned the right to play in the qualifying round of the AFC Champions League, the top-level club competition of the continent.