Salgaocar FC will take on last edition runners-up Bengaluru FC in their campaign opener of the ninth edition of the I-League at Tilak Maidan at Vasco tomorrow.
Since the inception of the I-League in 2007-08 season, the I-League title has stayed in Goa on six occasions, barring the last couple of seasons.
Now, things have changed for the Goan clubs in recent years and with Churchill Brothers and Dempo not there, the onus is on Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa to do well in the league.
Salgaocar, who were on the brink of relegation, fought back towards the end to finish seventh last season.
They are a different side this season as they have strengthened their side by signing the likes of Jackichand Singh, Seityasen Singh and Reagan Singh. They have also signed three foreigners in Zambian defender Francis Kasonde, Cameroon striker Calvin Mbarga and Scottish midfielder Martin Scoot.
While they have retained Darryl Duffy, the English striker is still recovering from his injury suffered during the ISL and will be available at the end of this month.
They also have new coach Malky Thomson from Scotland who has worked with clubs such as Celtic, Limerick, Dundee United and Inverness in the Scottish Premier League and the English Championship. He has also previously worked in Asia having had a stint with Al Ahli in Dubai and his experience could help Salgaocar to do better this season.
With the number of teams participating in the league having come down to nine from 12 last year, coach Thomson said that a good start will be crucial for his team.
“Our focus will be to win the first few games that will set the tone going and tomorrow it will be a real challenge for us as we take on formidable Bengaluru FC,” he said.
“The team is well balanced and hoping they give their best and win tomorrow which will boost their morale and do well in the rest of the tournament,” stated Thomson.
Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, would want to put behind the disappointment of coming so close only to let the title slip in the dying moments against Mohun Bagan last season.
They have strengthened their side by recruiting seven new players and coach Ashley Westwood was positive that his side would do well to regain the title which they lost to Mohun Bagan last year.