Round-3 Prediction Statistics:

Correct Predictions : 5/7
Exact Score-line : 2/7

Season’s Prediction Statistics:

 

Correct Predictions : 14/21
Exact Score-line : 6/21

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JCT FC
v
EAST BENGAL

Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana
Dec 17th, 2:30 PM IST

Sukhwinder Singh is back in charge of the mill-men after his successful stint with India U-23 squad. The veteran tactician needs to gather all his experience if he has to stop Trevor Morgan’s side. JCT has made a very ordinary start to their I-League campaign. They have lost 2 of their first 3 matches. They were completely outplayed by Dempo in the last encounter. The team from Punjab is usually tough to beat at home; however, this season, newly promoted HAL shocked JCT by beating them 0-1 in the first match. JCT is one of only two teams which have never been relegated from NFL/I-League (other being East Bengal), they would need to get their acts together if they are to maintain that record this season.

Red and Gold brigade is showing no signs of stopping their all conquering run. In 3 matches they have scored 6 goals, while conceding none. They were pegged by some spirited defending from AIFF XI in the first half of last match. In 2nd half, East Bengal steam-rolled an inexperienced AIFF team. Robin Singh scored a brace and was a deserving Man of the Match. The English coach has instilled a work ethic into the team which no foreign coach had previously managed. The chemistry between East Bengal players is amazing – they play as a team. Individual brilliance of players like Tolgey and Penn has also bailed them out occasionally. A proper mixture of teamwork and individual talent has so far made them unbeatable. East Bengal played its last KFL match on 14th, losing to Aryan with a 2nd string squad. The match was also a benefit match for former footballer Santo Mitra.

On current form it will be extremely difficult for JCT to contain East Bengal. Sukhi is renowned for his defensive tactics. He might delay the inevitable for some time but the Fed Cup champions are way too strong right now.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for

Robin Singh (East Bengal), Daniel Bedemi (JCT)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

JCT 0-2 East Bengal


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AIR INDIA
v
ONGC

Sahahu Stadium, Kohlapur
Dec 17th, 3:00 PM IST

Air India frustrated Chirag United in the last match. Chirag created many chances throughout the match but failed to convert any of those. The airmen came to YBK to play for a draw, they rarely ventured out of their own halves. Stopper Dhanachandra Singh and ‘keeper Arup Debnath played out of their skins to keep the Durand Cup champions at bay. Air India are one of the teams which are in danger of relegation this season, teams have often found it difficult to get going in Cooperage. AI should look to get 3 points in this encounter.

ONGC slumped to 2nd defeat in 3 matches against Salgaocar. They might have lost both matches but they weren’t outclassed. They kept out the Goans (who had scored 7 goals in first 2 matches) for most of the game, but fell to a to a controversial penalty towards the end. ONGC did dominate proceedings in first half, creating four clear cut chances. But inexperience and poor finishing let them down. Coach Sujit Chakraborty was left ruing missed oppurtunities.

This is a Maharashtra derby with a difference – two institutional teams from the same state are slogging it out. I-League hasn’t seen such an encounter since 2002/03 season. HAL and ITI, both from Bangalore battled it out that year. ONGC spearheaded by Babatunde might just clinch this.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for

Gour Naskar (ONGC), Arup Debnath (Air India)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Air India 0-1 ONGC

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MOHUN BAGAN
v
DEMPO

Yuvabharati Krirangan, Kolkata
Dec 16th, 1:45 PM IST

Bagan and Dempo are two of the most successful clubs in the history of I-League. Between themselves they have won half of the total NFL editions. Yet, things are shockingly contrasting before the match. While Dempo welcome back Beto to their team, Bagan are pondering over a new coach.

Much maligned Stanley Rosario finally resigned on 13th. His tactical ineptness was one of the primary reasons behind Green and Maroon brigade’s slump. He will be replaced by Subhash Bhowmik, who took over as Technical Director. Bhowmik has a wealth of experience in top level football, having coached East Bengal, Mohammedan Sporting and Salgaocar in I-League. A coach of his caliber can resurrect Asia’s oldest club in these dark times. Edeh Chidi is fit for this clash and may start alongside Muritala.

Beto and Ranty, dynamic duo

Dempo bounced back beautifully from the loss to EB in Round-2. With Beto back into the thick of things once again, Colasco’s men looked ominous. It was Beto who was responsible for the two penalties Dempo got against JCT. He himself scored the opening goal after Ranty’s spot kick had hit the post. Beto is one of the finest play-makers in India right now. He endured a rough stint in Mohun Bagan a few season’s back, where he was used as a striker and failed to impress. The team had discarded him even before the season ended.

Appointment of a new coach often brings a fresh lease of life to players. This factor can favour Bagan in front of the home crowd. On form Dempo should clinch this but Bagan are in with a chance.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for

Snehashis Chakravarty (Mohun Bagan), Beto (Dempo)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Mohun Bagan 1-1 Dempo

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SALGAOCAR

v
AIFF XI

Fatorda Stadium, Margaon
Dec 18th, 3:00 PM IST

Salgaocar, the first Goan club to be crowned Indian champions, are one of three teams which have won all their matches in I-League so far. In last 10 years, Salgaocar has never won its first 3 matches in an I-League campaign. They struggled against a well drilled ONGC side last week and barely managed to win the game. Japanese Ruiji Suyeoka was once again inspirational behind the team’s performance.

Desmond Bulpin’s boys once again showed good spirit against East Bengal. In first half they closed down the spaces efficiently, ran a lot and defended in numbers. Shutting out Trevor Morgan’s team for 45 minutes is no mean feat and the youngsters did it with great panache. Sadly, the bane of inexperience crept in the 2nd half. Reserve goalkeeper Jagarup Singh dished out one of best individual performances of round-3 but was unable to stop the onslaught. AIFF XI can be criticised for over-relying on long-ball tactics. Their lack of pattern play on the turf is making them predictable against quality teams.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for

Raju Gaikwad (AIFF XI), Yusif Yakubu (Salgaocar)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Salgaocar 1-0 AIFF XI

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MUMBAI FC
v
CHURCHILL BROTHERS

Shahanu Stadium, Kohlapur
Dec 18th, 3:30 PM IST

Mumbai FC has made a dream start in their I-League campaign. Despite being embroiled in financial problems, the club has shown admirable spirit, having won all 3 matches. They shot down fellow high fliers HAL in the last encounter. Coach Subrata Bhattacharya (Jr.) tactically outmaneuvered his opposite number. MFC was solid at the back and exploited HAL’s weakness on the right flank. Ebi Sukore scored the winning goal in the 64th minute as Mumbai FC held onto to 3 precious points. MFC’s rise to the top has been characterized by solid defensive displays. They have conceded just one goal in 3 matches, a record only bettered by East Bengal. Arup Debnath, Peter Siddique and Edathodika have played as a unit, creating an often impenetrable wall at the back.

MFC’s in-form defence will face a litmus test against the most dangerous striker in Indian football – Odafa Okalie. The Nigerian striker has started where he stopped in last I-League, once again rising to the top of the pile in terms of goals. With 4 goals in 3 matches, he has now scored more than 200 goals in Indian football. Against Mohun Bagan, he toyed with the defenders, scoring two goals. Churchill is over-dependent on Odafa and it is obvious that stopping Odafa might stop them. However, no defender in India has managed to completely shut out Odafa in recent times.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for

Nicolas Rodrigues (Mumbai FC), Odafa Okalie (Churchill Brothers)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Mumbai FC 1-2 Churchill Brothers

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PUNE FC
v
CHIRAG UNITED

Balewadi Stadium, Pune
Dec 18th, 4:00 PM IST

PFC has been the biggest disappointment in I-League so far. They have failed to make any impact whatsoever in the 3 matches that they have played. Against Viva Kerala, they struggled to cope with the opponent’s pace. Only a goal deep into injury time saved them from a loss. They have conceded first in all 3 games. In the absence of Subrata Pal, PFC defence tends to lose its shape, reserve ‘keeper Balaji has been unimpressive thus far. Arata Izumi and Mandjou Keita played well in Kannur. Young striker, Pemmi, who broke Baichung Bhutia’s record of being the youngest goal-scorer in Federation Cup, lacks experience at top level. Veterans Paresh Sivalkar and Ajayan have not been consistent so far.

Junior, Chirag’s top scorer in I-League till now

Twice I-League winner Subrata Bhattacharya was left fuming after his team’s match against Air India. He remarked that his team was not even fit to play in 3rd division, let alone challenge for the title. Joshimar, Junior and Lalkamal Bhowmik put up an exhibition of missing chances in the last match. They were unable to convert the high percentage of possession that Chirag enjoyed in the match. Subrata himself seems to have lost the motivation to lead his Durand Cup winning team, local rumours suggest that he wants to leave Chirag.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for

Mandjou Keita (Pune FC), Joshimar (Chirag United)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Pune FC 1-1 Chirag United

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VIVA KERALA
v
HAL SC

Municipal Corporation Stadium, Calicut
Dec 18th 4:00 PM IST

 

The south Indian derby sees HAL travel to Kerala to take on a Viva side still without a win.

Viva Kerala almost pulled off a win against Pune FC, but conceded a goal in the very last minute. Debutante U Jimshad put Viva ahead on the 73rd minutes as he latched on to a pass from Tsewang. Young striker CS Sabeeth combined pretty well with Javed but couldn’t extend Viva’s lead. Felix was replaced in the first half after he picked up a knock. He may not start against HAL.

HAL made a thumping start to their I-League campaign winning two away games. They lost to Mumbai FC in round-3 but played pretty well. Absence of talismanic Xavier Vijaya Kumar was detrimental to HAL’s performance in Mumbai.This is HAL’s 4th away game on the trot, so fatigue might be an issue for the Bangalore based side. Coach Muralidharan would be aiming to bring HAL back to winning ways.

TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for

Abdulla Hamzah (HAL), CS Sabeeth (Viva Kerala)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Viva Kerala 0-1 HAL