ISL 5: Fortress braces for cracker as Bengaluru, Chennaiyin lock horns

Bengaluru: The Sree Kanteerava Stadium is set to host a big-money clash, as the Indian Super League season kicks off for Carles Cuadrat’s Blues with a clash against Chennaiyin FC, on Sunday. John Gregory’s men went down a goal, responded with three of their own and then conceded harmlessly late to beat Bengaluru and be crowned champions at the Fortress, last season.

“We know that this is a repeat of last season’s final, but the ideal scenario is that we view it as the opening game of this season. We have studied them but we will be focusing on ourselves more and how we can make use of our strengths in this game,” said Cuadrat, speaking to the media ahead of the game.

The Blues assembled in July and headed to Spain for a pre-season that was full of lessons handed by teams like Barcelona B and Villareal B and Cuadrat admits his side returned from the tour, wiser and stronger.

“We played some friendlies in Spain and it was a good experience for some of our boys. They were tough opposition and now is the time for us to use that to our advantage as we begin the new league season,” the Spaniard said.

The friendlies also featured experienced centre-back Albert Serran who is expected to partner Juanan Gonzalez at the back and lend the defence some much-needed stability. Things have slowly begun coming together for Cuadrat and he will hope his team don’t take too long to find their rhythm. What will surely help is the fact that the Blues assembled much earlier than most ISL teams given their AFC Cup commitments.

“It’s true that our team was together much before the others, but these games depend on the performance that we put out on the day. We know that we have never beaten Chennaiyin FC at home, but every game has its own history and tomorrow we’ll be trying to change that,” said Cuadrat.

John Gregory’s midfield, meanwhile, was dealt a little blow after Dhanpal Ganesh was ruled out of the first phase of the League with an injury. Like Bengaluru, Chennaiyin too have shopped for three new foreigners this season in Eli Sabia, Andrea Orlandi, and Carlos Salom. But how the Englishman chooses to roll out his foreigners makes for interesting guessing.

Bengaluru’s attack will come up against the muscle and experience of Mailson Alves and Inigo Calderon which makes for a fantastic battle. Interestingly, both teams have conceded in every game they’ve played against each other and Sunday’s tie could stretch that statistic.

The match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be telecast across the Star Sports network, HotStar and JioTV.

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