Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson is optimistic of kicking off their Indian Super League 2023-24 season on a high against Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kerala, on Thursday despite the absence of their talisman Sunil Chhetri. The veteran is on national duty for the Blue Tigers in the Asian Games.
Chhetri scored five goals in the ISL 2022-23 season for the Blues and played a key role in taking his team to the final of the tournament. However, there were a few matches in which Bengaluru FC played without their skipper and they did a decent job.
“When we look at our squad, with Sunil away with the national team, we dealt with the situation with the national team. Sunil wanted to represent his country and we were happy for Sunil to go to the Asian Games. However, we have got a strong and experienced squad with experienced players who could have potentially gone to the Asian Games. We feel we have got a good squad to start the opening game tomorrow night,” Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson said at the pre-match press conference.
“Whoever is picked for the game will do his absolute best to help Bengaluru FC on Thursday night,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru FC was able to turn the tables in the second phase of the previous season of the ISL, winning nine matches on the bounce. The English manager added they had done a fine job even without Sunil Chhetri.
“Last year we did not have Sunil Chhetri in the starting XI because I left him out. Other players came to the forefront and did what they did. Competition for places is what football’s all about, all around the world. So yes, we would like to have Sunil in the team but we respect his decision to represent his nation,” Grayson said.
“Thursday is a chance for whoever starts to perform well and hopefully stay in the team for the next game,” he added.
Grayson is also happy with the current squad he has for the upcoming season of the ISL.
“I’m really pleased with the squad that we have got this year. It is different to last year. We let a number of players go and brought some fresh faces to the group. So, we feel that we have got a different type of group and there is competition for places in the squad.”
Bengaluru FC will look to make a winning start to their campaign.