Over the past three years, Bengaluru FC have entertained many with their fearless brand of football. From the title-winning run in their debut season to the agonising defeat to Mohun Bagan the following year and their second league triumph last season, the Blues’ of Bengaluru have never been a disappointment. While the team has been an instant hit among fans, it has also opened the door for other teams to come into the picture and dream big.
One such team is Chennai City FC. Inducted into the I-League this season, Chennai hopes to replicate Bengaluru’s success. And they will gain some first-hand experience when the two lock horns in the I-League clash at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Saturday. The defending champions have had a comfortable start to the season, despite missing a handful of regular starters due to injuries. In their win against Shillong Lajong in the opening game, newcomers Sena Ralte and Harmanjot Khabra more than made up for the injured duo of Lalchhuanmawia and Rino Anto. While Khabra was comfortable in new role of right-back, Ralte made the most of the opportunity to stake his claim for a regular place in the Bengaluru set-up. What would have pleased head coach Albert Roca more is the fact that both the full-backs were actively involved in the attack and proved to be a constant headache of the Lajong defence. In the middle, though Lenny Rodrigues has replaced Alvaro Rubio, the 29-year-old still has a lot to do if he has to match the influence Rubio had on the side. But with Roca ruling out any major changes – despite the likes of Sandesh Jhingan and Honduran striker Roby Norales joining the side over the week – one can expect Bengaluru to continue perfecting their style with a similar starting XI against Chennai.”It’s true that we don’t want to make too many changes as we are trying to consolidate our position. The first game was good and I don’t want to make too many changes. But if things don’t go well I would like to introduce the other players,” said Roca.Meanwhile, Chennai hasn’t had a smooth sail so far. Problems in acquiring the stadium, foreign internationals reaching only 5-6 days before the opening game and trouble in getting a handful of local talent on board has had a telling effect on their preparations. And this was evident when they played out a goalless draw with fellow first-timers Minerva Punjab FC in the opening game.Though the side boast of I-League regulars like Darren Caldeira, Dhanpal Ganesh and Dharmaraj Ravanan, Chennai lacked cohesiveness, something that can be built only by playing more games.And their head coach Robin Charles Raja will hope that his side makes the most when they line up against the champions.

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