New Delhi. As the sixth edition of the Hero Indian Super League draws near, everyone seems to be asking just one question?. Will Bengaluru FC create a record of sorts and retain the ISL title? Can they do what no other team has done before? Can they live up to their reputation? Why not, many neutrals would say. Bengaluru FC has had a remarkable run in the ISL so far. After three years of success in the I-League, they signed up for ISL in 2017 and made an instant impact.
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Guided by Spanish coach Albert Roca, they put up a splendid show in the first season and topped the standings with an eight-point lead. They suffered heartbreak in the final, though, losing to Chennaiyin FC at home. The next season, Bengaluru were back at it again, this time under Roca's protege Carles Cuadrat. This was a more well-rounded Bengaluru side which took the league by storm. They once again finished on the top of the standings and made it to the final where they defeated FC Goa to clinch the title that they so narrowly lost out only a year ago.
There were celebrations all around, but no sooner the fever had died down, it was time to plan all over again. With a clutch of new signings and retention of all players who mattered, particularly domestic, Bengaluru look set to dominate again. Bengaluru’s winning intention reflects in the signing of Ashique Kuruniyan. With an All-Indian attacking lineup of Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and now Kuruniyan, the defending champions look formidable on paper.
“Every young footballer in the country wants to play for Bengaluru and I am happy to be able to realise this dream," Kuruniyan had said upon signing for the ISL champions. Bengaluru have always managed to make some astute foreign signings, but their quota of domestic signings now give them a definite edge.
There were five Bengaluru FC players in Igor Stimac’s starting XI that played the first two World Cup qualifiers with captain Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Udanta Singh, Rahul Bheke and Ashique Kuruniyan playing a significant role. Midfield hero Eugeneson Lyngdoh has now returned to the club, and if Nishu Kumar was fit enough, he would have made it to the national team too.
Nowhere can you find such a dazzling array of domestic players in one team. Bengaluru’s consistency as a football club when it comes to matters on the field sets them apart. They have set high standards and are constantly pushing to set the bar higher for others in the league. No wonder they are now every neutral’s favourites to do what nobody has done before in the ISL.