Making their debut in the Indian Super League (ISL), Bengaluru FC (BFC) are title favourites because of their stunning track record.
Founded in 2013, BFC have established a glittering record in their short history. In four seasons in the I-League, BFC have won the title twice apart from winning the Federation Cup two times.
They became the first team from India to reach the final of the AFC Cup -- the second tier club competition of Asia -- in the 2015-16 season, eventually finishing runners-up to Air Force Athletic Club of Iraq.
With a little bit of luck, they could have played their second successive AFC Cup final this season but Tajikistan's FC Istiklol had other ideas.
That loss was surely disappointing for BFC, but makes them doubly dangerous as the heartbreak could act as a springboard to do well in the ISL.
"I'm sure the boys have spoken about this. We had a great run in the AFC Cup and were unlucky not to make it to our second successive final. But that's football for you. We will definitely look to overcome this disappointment by a strong showing in the ISL," BFC coach Albert Roca said.
BFC may only be making their debut in the ISL this year but they will enjoy a head-start. They had a pre-season camp in Spain which kick-started even as the other clubs were busy putting their squads together.
In Spain, they played friendlies against quality opposition and the four games that they had in the AFC Cup helped them iron out their flaws. They will begin their campaign against Mumbai City FC at home on November 19.
"Our AFC Cup campaign meant we had an earlier start to the season than most ISL teams and that will definitely go a long way in helping us settle down faster in what is a new tournament for us," Roca admitted.
Both on paper and on the field, BFC appear to be a compact side. India captain Sunil Chhetri stands out as their most important Indian player while the availability of goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from the reserve team make them even more dangerous.
Young Udanta Singh, Nishu Kumar, Malsawmzuala and Daniel Lalhlimpuia (reserve team) have all been retained while Rahul Bheke, Lenny Rodrigues and Harmanjyot Khabra can be as good as anyone else in the competition.
Their list of foreign players, too, is impressive. Centre-back John Johnson is again part of the roster while the Spanish contingent -- there are five of them -- are tried and trusted names.
Spanish veteran Alvaro Rubio, former Real Madrid Castilla (B team) centre-half Juan Antonio, former Spain U-20 international Braulio and former Western Sydney Wanderers captain Dimas Delgado could give Bengaluru FC wings to fly.
BFC have no experience in the ISL but can still set the pace, if not a new standard.
"At no point does winning a trophy in the past make a tournament in the future easier. Yes, it does give us confidence, but we will have to work hard right from start to finish if we are to find success in our debut season of the ISL. Football never has guarantees," Roca said.
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