Bengaluru FC topped the league table by eight points last time, and was by far the best team in the regular season. However, it fell at the final hurdle, losing to Chennaiyin FC at home. It was a bitter, painful defeat and the club will be itching for another shot at the title.
State of play
BFC moved swiftly after Albert Roca stepped down, promoting the assistant coach, Carles Cuadrat, to the top post. The idea was to ensure continuity in playing style and philosophy. Cuadrat is a hands-on coach, and was credited for BFC’s success from set-pieces last season.
The core of the team has remained the same, with John Johnson and Subhasish Bose the only major departures. After defeat in the AFC Cup, BFC has only one competition to focus on. A play-off spot should not be in doubt.
At 34, Sunil Chhetri is playing the best football of his career, which is a testament to his hunger and incredible fitness.
Cuadrat has described him as having the enthusiasm of a 12-year-old; he is not wrong. Chhetri scored 14 goals last season and was named the league’s best player. He combined effortlessly with Miku, who scored 15 himself.
With Chencho Gyeltshen’s arrival, it remains to be seen how BFC will use Chhetri, although it is unlikely that the former will be handed too much responsibility immediately.
BFC’s defence was the best in the league last season, conceding only 16 goals, but John Johnson and Subhasish Bose, who were integral parts of it, have now left.
Albert Serran has arrived as Johnson’s replacement, but it will not be easy to replicate the understanding the Englishman had with Juanan.
Rino Anto, Rahul Bheke, Harmanjot Khabra, and Nishu Kumar offer enough cover in the full-back positions, though.
The exit of midfielder Edu Garcia, who left in February, was a big blow; his distribution was excellent.
BFC has signed three new overseas players in former Swansea centre-half Albert Serran, Spanish midfielder Xisco Hernandez and Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen.
Cuadrat has spoken highly of Xisco — an attacking midfielder — and his creative skills; he will need to fire.
Gyeltshen, who shone for Minerva in the I-League, will bring pace up front.