I-League: Injury-plagued Bengaluru open title defence against Lajong (Preview)

Bengaluru, Jan 6 (IANS) Effecting no changes in their squad from last year, reigning I-League champions Bengaluru FC will look to make the most of their settled looking team when they start their title defence against Shillong Lajong at the Kanteerava Stadium here on Saturday.

History backs the defending champions who have come out victorious in all three I-League meetings between the two sides at this venue. But Bengaluru coach Albert Roca is not reading too much into it to.

“We are going to be up against a very competitive team from what I have seen and it’s important that we give 100% in every department in the pitch if we want to start our campaign on the right note,” he told Bengaluru FC media.

Asked if Bengaluru’s stunning run in the AFC Cup and the fact that they are reigning champions in the I-League puts pressure on his side, Roca begged to differ.

“There’s absolutely no pressure on us. If anything, the success in the AFC Cup has boosted our morale and we will look to carry that mentality into the League,” the Spaniard said.

“We will surely need to perform at our best from the first game to the last, but we won’t be doing it under any pressure.”

Bengaluru FC have signed as many as five players on loan in a bid to add depth to the squad and bolster every position across the pitch.

However, a host of injuries has dented their preparations for the season-opener. The champions will be without Rino Anto, Althuammawia Ralte, Keegan Pereira, Salam Ranjan Singh and Lalchhuanmawia.

Lajong, meanwhile, have rung in changes of their own, signing three new foreign players.

Newly-acquired striker Fabio Pena joins Cameroonian forward Aser Pierrick Dipanda, who turned out for DSK Shivajians last season, in the attack. The other two new acquisitions are midfielder Yuta Kinowaki and defender Dan Ignat.