Bengaluru: Defending Champions Bengaluru FC will start this year's Hero I-League campaign as favourites when they take on Goa's Dempo in the eighth season, which kicks off at Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Saturday.
This year's matches have been shifted to Sree Kanteerava Stadium from the Bengaluru Football Stadium as it is set for a major renovation in a bid to host 2017 FIFA Junior World Cup.
Bengaluru made a resounding debut to the tournament by winning the title last year with a league of good players in their repertoire -- India football captain Sunil Chhetri, forwards Sean Rooney and Robin Singh, who played stellar role in helping their team clinch the title.
Not far behind were the performances of indomitable defenders John Johnson and Curtis Osano.
Bengaluru have strengthened their team further by drafting quality players like former junior international and England's Joshua Walker, promising 18-year-old rookie Udanta Singh, and experienced midfielder and former Randajied United captain Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
Bengaluru have been unbeaten against the Goan club, who are in a rebuilding mold, in the previous three matches.
Speaking to reporters at the formal launch of the 2015 edition of I-League, Chhetri said, "Being the champions and playing at home, the pressure will be on us for sure, but our coach (Ashley Westwood) has told us to focus more on performance than the result."
Reminiscing great encounters with Dempo, Chhetri said while Goans were the best opponents, his team would be going into the game with a positive frame of mind.
"We have had great encounters on earlier occasions, but tomorrow we will take to the field with positive frame of mind," he said.
Dempo's Clifford Miranda said Bengaluru are the defending champions and team to beat, but Dempo are here to win with a bunch of young talented players.
"Bengaluru FC is the best team in India and the team to beat. Ours is a young side, but we are here to win," he said.