Bengaluru: Reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champions Bengaluru FC kicked off their 2019-20 pre-season with an open training session attended by over 150 supporters at the Bengaluru Football Stadium here on Friday.
New signings Ashique Kuruniyan, Raphael Augusto, Manuel Onwu and Suresh Wangjam joined Eugeneson Lyngdoh as head coach Carles Cuadrat put them through their paces in his second season as BFC boss.
Taking charge of a light session, Cuadrat reiterated the importance of going step by step to achieve the objectives for the season. "My message to the players and the supporters is the same from last season - we have to take it step by step. We have to achieve the results game by game and target the play-offs without thinking much about defending the title.
"There are ten teams playing and all these teams want to become champions at the end of the season. We have to give our best and try to fight for our objectives. We have to be as competitive as Bengaluru FC has been in the past, but at the same time, be grounded because it's going to be more of a mental challenge this season."
Despite missing the on-field training session, skipper Sunil Chhetri, still recovering from a fever that kept him out of action for India, was pumped up for the new season, "This year we have strengthened the squad with some key additions in different areas.
"That means we will have a healthy fight for all the positions and nobody will be guaranteed a place. Every player will be pushing each other, and that's a good team to be a part of. We have been consistently fighting for trophies over the last six years, but that doesn't guarantee anything for the new season. Yes, our aim is to fight for the title; but there are nine other teams vying for the same. So, we don't expect an easy season at all."
Building on their five-year-long tradition, the supporters turned up in numbers at the BFS, to create a vociferous atmosphere as they welcomed back the team ahead of the new season.
The Blues also introduced Assistant Coach Oriol Lozano, who is the only new face in the club's backroom staff.
The former Spanish youth international has a stellar playing career on his CV, having turned out for Racing Santander in La Liga. A total of 23 players participated in the training session, with only Chhetri (illness) and custodian Prabhsukhan Gill missing out. The youngster is on national duty with the India U19 squad.
The Blues, who kick off their Indian Super League campaign with a home game against NorthEast United, will be training in the city before heading to the BFC Residential Training facilities in Bellary on September 23 for the second leg of pre-season.