Bengaluru FC kick off the season with a Durand Cup opener against reigning champions Mohammedan Sporting Club at the Raia Sports Complex, in Goa, on Thursday. The tournament’s 127th edition has Bengaluru in Pool C, clubbed along with the Kolkata club and SESA FA who came through the qualifiers. The team, captained by Sunil Chhetri, arrived in Goa on Tuesday and had a light session on Wednesday
Earlier this month, the I-League champions toured China as part of their pre-season exercise and though it was a mixed bag of results (one win, two losses), coach Ashley Westwood had plenty of positives to bring back with him.
The tournament would also be a good indicator of how well Westwood’s summer signings have integrated with Bengaluru’s style of play. The club acquired a marquee player in midfielder Joshua Walker along with Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Udanta Kumam and Lalthuammawia Ralte.
“We are looking forward to competing in this cup competition which has a lot of history. It gives us the chance to try some new things with different combinations of players while we search for our best 11 in preparation for the upcoming I-League. Obviously, we would like to do well but we have the luxury of the I-League trophy in the cabinet. So, we would like to go into this tournament relaxed but focused and try to enjoy it,” said Westwood.
Westwood expressed his happiness at Mohammedan’s participation which shrouded in uncertainty after reports of the club pulling out of all competitions began to surface only last week. “We face Mohammedan who will provide us a good and competitive opposition and we are really thankful that they have been able to organise themselves to participate. It would have been a shame if they would have gone out of business considering they have contributed so much to Indian football over the years.”
Mohammedan were crowned champions last year after beating ONGC 2-1 in the final and Bengaluru FC are well aware that they will be up against a team that has much to gain from defending their title.
BENGALURU FC SQUAD
Pawan Kumar, Lalthuammawia Ralte
Rino Anto, John Johnson, Curtis Osano, Keegan Pereira, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai, Vishal Kumar, NS Manju and Gurtej Singh
Joshua Walker, Thoi Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Darren Caldeira, Beikhokhei Beingaichho, CK Vineeth and Siam Hanghal
Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Sean Rooney, Udanta Kumam