Ambitious Bengaluru FC ready to take flight in ISL against Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City, which finished top of the table in the regular season last year, will prove a tough opponent as the Sree Kanteerava Stadium bears witness to a fresh chapter in BFC's history.

Cheerful Bengaluru FC players attend a training session on Saturday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

After two I-League titles in four seasons, Bengaluru FC will make a new beginning to life on Sunday when it debuts in the Indian Super League. Mumbai City, which finished top of the table in the regular season last year, will prove a tough opponent as the Sree Kanteerava Stadium bears witness to a fresh chapter in BFC's history.

"Nothing changes, whether it's I-League or ISL," Sunil Chhetri insisted on the eve of the game. "The surroundings are different, a lot of things are different but our mentality is the same."

Albert Roca, though, was aware that the ISL would pose its own challenges. "Even if we were successful in the I-League, this is a different competition with different teams with a lot of foreigners," he noted. "But we have a successful past. We have to be ambitious."

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Roca would not describe his side as the favourite but BFC has done all the right things. Its squad has 12 names from last season while the AFC Cup campaign has ensured competitive action ahead of the ISL, something its rivals have not enjoyed. The addition of former La Liga strikers Miku and Braulio Nobrega has strengthened BFC, even if midfielder Dimas Delgado will miss this game through injury.

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Mumbai, hailed by Roca as the ISL's best outfit last year, continues to be coached by the Costa Rican Alexandre Guimaraes. The two know each other from their time in central America; Guimaraes was in charge of his own national team while Roca was coach of neighbouring El Salvador. "I know his style; it's not very different from what he's doing here," Guimaraes noted.

What Mumbai did well last year, before it stumbled in the semifinals, was to strike the right balance between Indian and overseas players. Amrinder Singh, Gerson Vieira, Lucian Goain and Leo Costa have remained at Mumbai but Chhetri hasn't. Guimaraes and the BFC captain chatted warmly on match-eve. On Sunday, they will seek to foil each other's designs.