Erik Paartalu promises more goals from fresh forward line at Bengaluru FC

The Australian midfielder also declared that the Blues won’t be eyeing anything lesser than the title in the ISL 2020-21 season.

By Utathya Nag and Naveen Peter

Bengaluru FC’s Australian midfielder Erik Paartalu thinks added firepower upfront and an increased hunger for success will fuel the Blues’ charge for the title in Indian Super League (ISL) this season.

ISL 2018-19 champions Bengaluru FC reached the semi-finals last season before being knocked out by eventual champions ATK. Despite the top-four finish on the back of a solid defence, the Blues were far from their best due to poor conversion rate.

Bengaluru FC were seventh in the goals tally of all 10 teams last season with 24 goals from 20 matches. The teams behind them – Jamshedpur FC (22 goals) Hyderabad FC (21 goals) and NorthEast United FC (16 goals) – all played two matches fewer.

“I think the coach Carles Cuadrat has made his intent clear with the signings he has done this season. He’s gone for quite a few attacking options,” Erik Paartalu told the Olympic Channel.

“Lack of goals was a big thing for us last year. We have signed three proven goal-scorers this season… so this year where we’ll score a lot more,” he hoped.

To resolve their goal-scoring woes, Bengaluru FC have roped in Norwegian striker Kristian Opseth and Brazilian attacker Cleiton Silva to ease the burden on captain Sunil Chhetri, who alone scored nine of Bengaluru’s 24 goals last season.

BFC’s third new foreign recruit Fran Gonzalez, despite being a defender by trade, will add to the firepower. The Spaniard, who can be dangerous in the six-yard box, scored 10 goals for I-League champions Mohun Bagan last season. Bagan have merged with ATK for the ISL this season.

Furthermore, losing their champions tag last year, Erik Paartalu reckons, has made the entire team hungrier to taste success once again.

“I think from the day after the season was finished for us, we made it quite clear that we’re going to come back hungry. For everyone in Bengaluru, it’s pretty clear that we’re going for the trophy this year and hopefully, we can get across the line,” the 34-year-old Paartalu said.

Ready for the Goa challenge

Bengaluru FC’s title charge in ISL 2020-21 begins with a fixture against FC Goa on November 22. It was FC Goa who Bengaluru FC beat in the 2018-19 final to win their maiden ISL title.

Goa, however, will be a very new-look unit this year under new head coach Juan Ferrando. With the entire tournament being played in Goa due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Erik Paartalu thinks the Gaurs will pose a stern challenge on their home turf.

“We don’t know what to expect probably for the first couple of games because a lot of the teams have changed their coaches and their squads,” Paartalu said. “But what we can expect from FC Goa is they are used to the conditions here, certainly the local lads.

“Playing at the Fatorda is where they play all their home games, so it’s going to be more like an away game for us but we’ll be fully prepared and ready to go against them,” the Aussie said.