Fortress the stage as Bengaluru FC lock horns with Mumbai City

Roca Confident Ahead Of Blues’ Historic ISL Debut; Gurpreet Singh Sandhu Part Of Squad

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC will make their much-awaited debut in the Indian Super League when they host last season’s toppers Mumbai City FC in an 8 pm kick-off at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday. The clash marks the beginning of a fresh chapter in the Blues’ history who move on to new frontiers, having been crowned the champions of the country twice over the last four years.

A clean slate and opponents who know close to nothing about each other lends the clash an interesting touch and Albert Roca will hope his side waste little time in getting their rhythm going on a pitch that’s been the Blues’ stronghold for the last three seasons.

“It’s the beginning of a new era in this club’s history but the boys know they can’t get carried away by the occasion. Mumbai City are a good side and we’ll have to be at our best if we are to take anything away from the clash,” said Roca at the pre-match press conference.

Led by Brazil-born Costa Rican gaffer Alexandre Guimaraes, the visitors come into the game on the back of a pre-season in Spain where they played seven friendly games. With former Blues custodians Amrinder Singh and Arindam Bhattacharja in their ranks, the Islanders have also brought in some flair with as many as five Brazilians headlining their overseas contingent that will be led by Romanian defender Lucian Goian.

“Mumbai have a coach who did well with them last season and they’ve got good foreigners who can cause trouble on their day. But we’ll focus on our game and look forward to putting out a performance that will make our fans proud,” he added.

Meanwhile, Bengaluru FC who were involved with the AFC Cup commitments, travelled to the BFC Residential Academy set up in Bellary for a two-week camp. The build-up also saw the Blues play multiple friendly games against East Bengal in Bengaluru, and Chennai City, Gokulam FC and Minerva Punjab in Bellary before returning to Bengaluru.

It will be interesting to see the team rolled out by Roca, given the inclusion of Braulio Nobrega, Edu Garcia and Miku, who join defender John Johnson in the Blues’ squad for the ISL. Bengaluru are also set to field in excess of four foreigners for the first time, with League rules allowing five to take the pitch at any given time, with three more on the bench.

In an update, Bengaluru have been shown the green light to field goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, with League rules allowing the Federation Cup champions to replace Lalthuammawia Ralte, who is set to miss at least four weeks with an ankle injury. Also missing out will be Dimas Delgado, who is set to miss out upto three weeks with an injury suffered in pre-season.

“It’s unfortunate that Dimas and Mawia picked up injuries but at the same time, I am happy that Gurpreet can fill the void in the goalkeeping position. He makes us secure and will play a crucial part tomorrow,” Roca said.

The game kicks off at 8 pm and will be telecast live on the Star Sports Network, HotStar and Jio TV.

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