EAST BENGAL v MUMBAI FC
15/04/2010 4:30 PM IST
However contrasting the two teams may be in terms of flair, history and achievements, there is one thing in common. Both the teams will look forward to make an end to their long lasting winless streaks. While the Red & Gold brigade from Kolkata have not registered three full points from their last six matches, Mumbai FC continued their win drought to nine consecutive I-League matches. Other than the Federation Cup triumph, East Bengal’s form and fortune has been pathetic in this season. Only positive for them going into this match is Baichung Bhutia’s availability after a long injury lay-off. The Indian captain has been named in the squad and he is expected to make an appearance as a late substitute.
After the unsuccessful stint with 3-6-1 strategy – which saw them leak easy goals – East Bengal may revert back to their tried and tested four defender formation. Weakness against defending set pieces and lack of finishing from the strikers are the major concerns for the Kolkata giants. Both the teams are currently tied on points, but East Bengal has one game in hand.
An inspired Mumbai side managed to secure a draw against the Kolkata outfit in the first leg played at Cooperage, but a back-on-the-wall, point-hungry East Bengal team may prove to be too hot to handle for Khalid Jamil’s boys in Salt Lake stadium’s artificial turf. Sanju Pradhan and Yusif Yakubu are the key players for East Bengal. Mumbai FC will bank on Vincent and Noel Wilson to pull off a surprise.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: EAST BENGAL 2—1 MUMBAI FC
DEMPO v CHIRAG UNITED
16/04/2010 6:30 PM IST
Dempo managed to retain their top of the table standing by defeating East Bengal in round 20. But their performance was far from convincing. They struggled to keep up with the pace of East Bengal wingers throughout the match. Much criticized substitutions by East Bengal coach Phillipe De Ridder and the heroics of their Goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal earned Dempo all three points from the match. They have to improve their performance a couple of notches if they want to stay clear off second placed Mahindra, who are just one point adrift the league leaders.
In their last match, a ten men Chirag fought a fierce battle to hold Pune FC for a draw. Mathematically, Chirag United is still in the title hunt and this fact should motivate Edmilson-Joshimar led Kolkata side to exceed the expectations. Goalkeeper Sandeep Nandy’s suspension is a big blow for Chirag, but Somnath Khara has proved in the past that he is a able deputy to the former Indian custodian. Beto and Ranti Martins will be the key players for Dempo.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: DEMPO 1—1 CHIRAG
MOHUN BAGAN v AIR INDIA
17/04/2010 4:30 PM IST
Change of coach could not change the fate of the Mariners, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Salgaocar in round 20. Barreto’s penalty miss hurt them badly, as they are almost out of contention for the title at this moment.
Air India continued their impressive run and secured a point from the Viva Kerala match. They are now three points clear of the survival battle and will look to consolidate their position by earning a similar result against their much fancied opponents. Unable to win any of their last five matches, Mohun Bagan, will desperately try to get back to the winning ways from this home tie. Edeh Chidi has regained match fitness and is expected to start alongside Jose Barreto to share the goal-scoring duties.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: MOHUN BAGAN 2—2 AIR INDIA
JCT v VIVA KERALA:
17/04/2010 4:00 PM IST
After losing three consecutive away matches, which saw them fall just a point above the relegation zone, JCT will be hoping for a change of fortune in their home soil. Traditionally JCT has been a tough nut to crack at home condition. So Viva strikers will have to be at their attacking best to break JCT’s strong defensive ploy.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, Sreedharan’s Viva Kerala managed a narrow 1-0 win; but at Ludhiana, the Kerala boys can expect a tougher challenge. Goalkeeper Karanjeet and playmaker Penn Orji will be the prime hope for the home team. Reuben Senyo and MP Shakeer will be the key man for the Kerala team.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: JCT 0—0 VIVA KERALA
SPORTING v CHURCHILL
17/04/2010 2:00 PM IST
Another Goan derby awaits the Fatodara crowd in round 21, when the defending Champion Churchill Brothers faces the challenge of bottom-placed Sporting Club de Goa. Sporting has shown signs of revival in last couple of matches, but this match against Churchill will be their acid test. Sporting, although have managed to close the gap with its nearest rival Lajong FC to four points, only a miracle can save them from the relegation axe. In their last match, playing at home, Sporting completely outplayed JCT and their confidence must be sky high going into this important derby.
Churchill are currently placed third, six points adrift off the league leaders. Knowing that any slip-ups at this stage might be suicidal, Churchill will look to secure no less than full three points against this lowly opposition. Churchill will be banking heavily on the attacking prowess of Odafa; Sporting’s hope will lie on Junior and Amos.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: SPORTING 1—3 CHURCHILL
LAJONG FC v MAHINDRA UNITED
17/04/2010 2:00 PM IST
Lajong produced a scintillating first half display against Churchill in round 20, yet went down by a Odafa thunder-strike later in the match. Even though Lajong has moved back in the survival battle, it must be noted that they have lost only twice at their home ground here in Shillong. High altitude factor might be one of the prime factors for the North-East club to maintain such impressive home record, but their strong home support cannot be ignored. Talented striker Shekokhei Tuboi and Anil Gurung can give the Mahindra high profile defenders a run for their money.
Mahindra on the other hand dropped crucial points when they could only manage a draw against Mumbai FC in round 20, which gave Dempo an opportunity to go back at the top of the I-League table. Mahindra United demolished Lajong by 5-0 margin in the first leg of the league, but it might prove to be a entirely different story playing at an altitude of over 4500 meters above the sea level.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: LAJONG 0—0 MAHINDRA
PUNE FC v SALGAOCAR
18/04/2010 4:00 PM IST
The draw against Mohun Bagan was surely a morale boasting result for the Karim Bencherifa managed side, but Salgaocar still have a long way to go before rescuing their place in the top flight of Indian football. The fact that they have not managed even a single win outside their home soil is a matter of concern. Moreover, their in-form striker Mondjou Keita is uncertain in this match due to a ligament tear.
On the other hand the I-League debutant Pune FC seems to have lost the ploy in latter part of the marathon run, with just one win from their last five matches. The 1-1 draw against a ten-man Chirag United have put an end to Pune’s title aspirations. They will desperately look at the ways to come out of this slump as soon as possible and finish the concluding part of the campaign on a strong note.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: PUNE FC 1—1 SALGAOCAR