Bengaluru FC to take on NorthEast United in ISL opener

Bambolim, Nov 19 (PTI) Bengaluru FC will start as favourites against NorthEast United FC in their opening match of the Indian Super League at the GMC Athletic Stadium, here on Saturday.

The Blues have had a rigorous pre-season and coach Marco Pezzaiuoli said his side is looking forward to face-off against the last season’s semifinalists.

“NorthEast United are a good team with a strong group of players and a coach who motivates them from the sidelines. They reached the semifinal last year, and as much as we do not want to look back on past results, we must respect them as an opponent,”said Pezzaiuoli, speaking to the media on the eve of the game.

“They have a lot of players with quality, and we will have to do well against them.”

Bengaluru’s foreign players for the season include Brazilians Alan Costa, Bruno Ramires and Cleiton Silva, Iranian midfielder Iman Basafa, Congolese striker Prince Ibara and Gabonese center-back Yrondu Musavu-King.

“Our squad for this season is a good mix of experience and youth, and they have gelled very well over the last few months. They understand what we expect of them, and it’s great to see how they have improved tactically over the course of pre-season.

“Our young players are also developing well, and we’re looking forward to seeing them play a part in the ISL,” Pezzaiuoli said.

The German-born Italian, who joined the Blues as head coach towards the end of last season, confirmed that while his foreign recruits were available for selection, there are injuries concerns for some Indian players for the opening encounter.

“As you know, Harmanpreet has not joined the squad yet because of his knee injury and Parag injured his elbow a few weeks ago, and will take time to recover. Akashdeep (Singh) and Rohit (Kumar) are also injured, and will be unavailable for the first game,” Pezzaiuoli confirmed.

NorthEast United, having finished in the playoffs last season, will be guided by head coach Khalid Jamil, and look to the services of Jamaican striker Deshorn Brown and Martinique International Mathias Coureur.

In defence for the Highlanders is summer signing, Australian Patrick Flottman while former Mumbai City FC midfielder Hernan Santana could also feature in the middle of the park.