The Blues would be starting the season with enormous expectations on their shoulders after giving two back to back good seasons in the Indian Super League. However, with the malaise of new superstars coming in, the coach getting familiar with rivals, and home venue missing out, things could change.
Performance last season
After a brutal debut season end that saw the Blues missing out on the championship on the summit clash in their backyard, where Chennaiyin FC staged a stunning comeback, Carles Cuadrat has shown great tactical acumen and presence of mind to keep it mostly consistent throughout the entire last season as Sunil Chhetri and Co. finished first on the league table, before downing FC Goa to lift the title.
However, as far as the mantle of the perfect season goes, Cuadrat is yet to earn it. While his tactics looked new and unbreakable in the beginning of last season, which saw the Blues winning the first eight league matches, the inevitable slump was waiting. With injuries and tiredness creeping in, Bengaluru FC drew thrice and lost five in the next eleven matches, which also included a poor 5-1 thrashing by Bengaluru.
The Blues finished on level points with the Gaurs and with FC Goa getting only stronger every season, it would be difficult to keep them at bay, especially after Sergio Lobera took his side to glory in the season-ending Super Cup tournament. Though the playoffs were much easier given the dynamic style of Cuadrat’s play, which saw them thrashing NorthEast United and Goa, their inconsistency was glaring in the Super Cup where they lost to I-League champions Chennai City FC.
Filling the gaps
Last season, BFC could score only 29 goals, which was equal to that of fifth-placed Jamshedpur FC, and seven lesser than second-placed FC Goa. In terms of conceding goals, BFC’s 22 goals were matched by sixth-placed ATK, while NorthEast United FC (18), Mumbai City FC (20), FC Goa (20), and Jamshedpur (21) even bettered it. Hence, the defending champions needed to sort out both the departments before they went on to the next season.
However, a happy Cuadrat has decided to keep to the core intact by retaining the likes of Albert Serran, Erik Paartalu, Juanan, and Dimas Delgado. Their only notable defensive addition came in the form of Suresh Wangjam, who has already impressed in the recently-concluded Durand Cup. Hence, one shouldn’t be surprised if BFC shipped in over 20 goals this season as well.
However, the Spaniard did have to fill the gap of star striker Miku Fedor upfront, who left Bengaluru FC to join Cyprus league’s Omonia Nikosia. And while the likes of Raphael Augusto and Ashique Kuruniyan are expected to boost their attack majorly, the amount of time it would take them to start impacting is questionable. Presuming that Sunil Chhetri would take the role of the centre forward, this BFC attack is easily as lethal as any other ISL team’s and Cuadrat has done a great job.
Bengaluru FC have gotten an easy group of fixtures to begin with, which would give Augusto and Kuruniyan time to gel in well with the philosophy of the club as well as the Spaniard’s playing style. Starting at home to an in-transition NEUFC, Cuadrat would be hoping for an easy win. The Blues will then travel to Goa, who despite being the second-best team in the league has somehow maintained a poor head-to-head record, and BFC would at least be hoping to churn out a draw at the Fatorda, if not an unlikely win.
The next two matches consist of yet another work-in-progress in Jamshedpur before a decent challenge comes in the shape of Chennaiyin FC. And the fact that BFC would be having gaps of six to seven days in between them, makes for a smooth beginning for the side. With the star-studded likes of Mumbai City FC, Kerala Blasters, and ATK all coming to them gradually, BFC are again expected to see a good start before they run through the rigours of the league.
The end wouldn’t be so easy for BFC and like last season, Cuadrat would be seeing a rough landing yet again with Chennai, Kerala, and Kolkata coming one after another. Hence, it would be the mid-season that could play a crucial role for Bengaluru.
Finishing in the top four hasn’t been a problem for Bengaluru FC, even when it was under Albert Roca. Hence, anything below the fourth position would be unacceptable for the fans and the players are more than confident that they wouldn’t disappoint. However, a massive problem for the club has been the uncertainty of their venue, with the club already enlisting Pune’s Balewadi as their home venue, and any unfortunate tweak in that aspect could see the side taking a hit on their performances.
The Blues haven’t lost a single match at their home last season, while they went on to lose four matches on the road and conceding as many as 15 goals. The familiarity of other clubs with Cuadrat’s tactics would also play a huge role in preventing Bengaluru FC from having as good a season as last year’s. Hence, while Bengaluru’s chance of lifting the title isn’t much doubtable, the Blue could see themselves slipping to the second place this time.