ISL 2020-21, Bengaluru FC preview: Time for Chhetri and co. to set the record straight

ISL 2020: Bengaluru FC finished in the playoffs last season. Ahead of the new season, we analyse the Blues' strengths, weakness, coach, foreign signings, best formation and more.

Bengaluru will look to Chhetri and his striking partners to support the team's mean defence.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

The 2019-20 season was underwhelming for Bengaluru FC (BFC). For the first time in its seven-year history, the Indian Super League (ISL) club finished a campaign without winning any silverware. Over the next few months in Goa, it will look to set this record straight.

Strengths

Last season, the towering Spanish centre-back pairing of Juanan and Albert Serran ensured that BFC conceded just 13 times in the league stage, the fewest by any team.

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Behind them, goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu kept a league-record 11 clean sheets, including one in the semifinal playoff.

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Gurpreet Singh Sandhu registered 11 clean sheets last season.   -  ISL Media

 

Serran is no longer at the club, but the defence is expected to remain sturdy. Also, the retention of a core set of players is a big plus.

Weaknesses

BFC’s 22 goals in 2019-20 league stage were just one better than bottom-placed Hyderabad FC. In the absence of Venezuelan Miku, who departed after winning the title in 2019, Sunil Chhetri has had to do all the heavy lifting.

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Chhetri did score nine times, but an injury to Manuel Onwu – brought in to replace Miku – and below-par performances from Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan (one goal each) meant Chhetri had no support.

BFC mostly scored through set plays, and with midfield creator Raphael Augusto no longer with the outfit, there are big holes to fill.

Coach

Carles Cuadrat has been at the club for the better part of the last four seasons. He first arrived as Albert Roca’s assistant in 2016 and was crucial in the side’s two runner-up finishes – the AFC Cup 2016 and ISL 2017-18.

Carles Cuadrat

Under Cuadrat, Bengaluru has played counter-attacking football and is known for its defensive organisation.   -  ISL MEDIA

Cuadrat succeeded Roca ahead of the 2018-19 campaign and brought home BFC’s maiden ISL trophy. Under the Catalan, the team has largely played counter-attacking football and is known for its defensive organisation and dead-ball routines.

Captain

Ever since he joined BFC in 2013, Chhetri has been the club’s heartbeat. He may be 36, but he has aged like fine wine, still supremely fit and capable of lung-busting runs that can put most youngsters to shame.

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Sunil Chhetri scored his first goal of ISL 2019 on Sunday against Chennaiyin.   -  K Murali Kumar

 

His 32 goals over the last three seasons have ensured that BFC has not finished lower than third in the ISL. A motivator par excellence, Chhetri’s role will be central as the ISL steps into the sequestered world of a bio-bubble.

Foreign contingent

Defender Juanan and midfielders Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado are without doubt among BFC’s most important players.

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Juanan will be the side’s longest-serving foreigner after John Johnson as he steps into his fifth season, while Paartalu and Delgado are into their fourth.

BFC’s Juanan trains ahead of their Hero ISL clash against Mumbai City FC at Bengaluru.   -  ISL

Centre-back Serran has been replaced by Fran Gonzalez, who won the I-League with Mohun Bagan last year. Much will depend on Jamaican striker Deshorn Brown, who came up with three goals from seven appearances in 2019-20.

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The additions of Cleiton Silva, who has a rich scoring record in Thailand, and Kristian Opseth, who last played for A-League outfit Adelaide United, show that BFC is serious about solving its goal-scoring problem.

Best new pick

Fran Gonzalez was an integral part of Bagan’s I-League conquest last year. Adept both as a central defender and a defensive midfielder, the Spaniard started 16 games for the Kolkata giant.

Fran Gonzalez and Kristian Opseth are among the new foreign signings for the season. - BFC MEDIA

The former Real Madrid youth product even ended up as Bagan’s joint-top goal-scorer with 10 strikes. BFC would be well-served if the 31-year-old can repeat the success.

Best possible formation

Coach Cuadrat’s trust in his wing-backs meant that for much of last season BFC had two overlapping wingers while on the attack (3-5-2) and defended with five men when under pressure (5-3-2). Delgado and Paartalu were the midfield mainstays, while Chhetri and Brown played up top.

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