A new-look FC Goa, strengthened by the addition of fresh foreign players and a new head coach, will begin their Indian Super League campaign with renewed vigour when they clash with formidable Bengaluru FC here on Sunday.
FC Goa have never won the coveted ISL trophy and would be hoping that this time around they go one step forward than 2018 and 2015 seasons, when they emerged as runners-up.
But it won't be an easy task for coach Juan Ferrando, who wants the club to continue playing attacking brand of football, which they also displayed under their previous coach Sergio Lobera.
"We would continue to play attacking brand of football, playing the game on the front foot. That is the philosophy of the club and that is what really attracted me to the job. It is aligned with the kind of football I believe in," Ferrando said.
FC Goa, who won the League Winners Shield last season to become the first side from India to qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League, have parted ways with the likes of star forwards Ferran Corominas and Hugo Boumous, who have established themselves as feared goal scorers in the ISL over the years.
They have added a few quality players, both domestic and foreign, and their familiarity with the home conditions will come in handy in their bid to at least reach the play-offs stage.
FC Goa would bank on their Spanish lethal striker Igor Angulo to prove his mettle right from the beginning. The coach has options in other forwards like Aaren D'Silva, Devendra Murgaonkar, Ishan Pandita and Makan Chothe, to choose from, to support Angulo.
Goa have an array of strong mid-fielders, the prominent being skipper Edu Bedia, who can decide the fate of the game. Also, the likes of India international Brandon Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Albert Noguera, and Jorge Ortiz will have to play their role as feeders.
The departure of utility mid-fielders like Ahmed Jahouh and Hugo Boumous would put more pressure on Noguera, who will have to establish himself as a link between Bedia and Angulo.
Then there are defenders Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie, apart from other local defenders, to man the line and thwart the opposition attack.
Ferrando, in the pre-match press conference, described their first opponents as a "very good team" but insisted that the team had a positive mentally.
He also said the team needs to forget the past record. "I thinking about my team now, I know about the history about Bengaluru and Goa. But this is new team and new chapter. We need to forget the past, the most important thing is to think about our team," the head coach said.
Edu said the team has prepared well for this game and that Bengaluru was a mentally and physically strong side.
Their mid-fielder Lenny Rodrigues said this season would be different since they have a new coach. On the other hand, Bengaluru who have won the ISL once, would also be hoping for a winning start and the contribution of star striker Sunil Chhetri would be the key.
The Bengaluru team boasts of a well-rounded unit and will be a tough opponent first up. The high-prolific Chhetri can turn a game on its head singlehandedly and with a strong support cast, BFC will be hard to get by.
Another important cog in BFC's wheel is experienced custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who kept the record of 11 clean sheets last season. His role would be equally important as that of Chhetri. Bengaluru are also expected to play strikers Cleiton Silva and Kristian Opseth,