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EAST BENGAL

v

DEMPO SC

YBK, Kolkata
15th May 2011 – 5:00 PM IST

***

Trevor Morgan’s lads return to I-league action on Sunday, to play out their remaining fixture of Round 15 against holders Dempo at Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata. This match is tipped to be one of the playoffs which could decide which way the title will go the end of season. While East Bengal has been busy showcasing their might on the Asian circuit, the I-league table has undergone major changes, with a new leader now, owing to Salgaocar’s recent dip in form.

The Red-&-Gold brigade are currently slotted nicely at third in the table, six points off the table toppers Churchill Brothers, but former champions still have five games left in their kitty, which makes this match all the more significant. East Bengal comes off a 1-1 draw against Parsipura Jayapura, where the in-form Baljit Sahni restored parity for the hosts just after half time. East Bengal’s last I-league match was a 3-0 thrashing of Viva Kerala, during which Syed Nabi, Sushil Singh and Penn Orji were on the mark for the Kolkata giants.

Coach Trevor Morgan is expected to deploy a 4-4-2 formation with dependable Sandip Nandy as the custodian. Nirmal Chettri and Sunil will take up the center back roles with Ravinder Singh slotted in as left back. Penn Orji could land up playing the attacking midfielder role, assisting instrumental Mehtab Hussain. Tolgay Ozbey, the top scorer for East Bengal this season, could be partnered by Baljit Sahni or Robin Singh, who started the last match against Jayapura. East Bengal’s recent form suggests that goal scoring has not been a problem for the side; it has been the lack of keeping clean sheets which has haunted Trevor Morgan, especially against quality sides. East Bengal have relatively difficult fixtures to play than Dempo, as the Kolkata side needs to play against Churchill Brothers and Salgaocar, away from home, which could very well be tipped as the remaining playoffs.

East Bengal is up against Dempo SC, who will be high on confidence after qualifying for the Round of 16 of the AFC cup. 10 men Dempo came out triumphant against Al Ansar at Shiv Chattrapti complex, Balewadi, Pune to register their second win of the tournament and go through to the next round. Beto and Ranti Martins hit the back of the net for the Goan side inside the first half amidst a clinical performance by the whole side. Dempo let in a consolation goal just before the final whistle, but till then the writing was on the wall as the Dempo fans went delirious in the stands. Armando Colaco’s side now faces the East Bengal challenge in a very crucial I-league tie. The defending champions are expected to deploy the same side at YBK on Sunday, except Saminia who will have to sit this clash out due to the three foreigners rule. John Dias or Dominic would replace the center back and would partner Mahesh Gawli there. Clifford Miranda and Valeriano Rebello are once again expected to do a more than decent job in the middle of the park for the Goan Whites. Undoubtedly Ranti Martins, Beto and Kalu will be the men to watch out and mark for the East Bengal defenders, as their link up has spelt doom for many sides, Karim Bencharifa would certainly attest this fact. In I-league, Dempo has been in a cracking form, winning eight of their last nine matches, thanks to their striking force. Ranti Martins has kept a check on Odafa for the golden boot this year, and is just a brace behind the Nigerian.

This is all building up to be a promising encounter at the colossal stadium on Sunday, where two giants of Indian football are ready to face off. In the first leg of the encounter, Dempo were undone by the Kolkata side at Fatorda, thanks to a Tolgay goal. Dempo would be looking to do the same to their hosts on Sunday, which would seriously dent their title hopes. Trevor Morgan would have his eyes fixed on the coveted crown now after being dumped out of the AFC cup last week. Both sides are equal on points, and a victory for either of them sees them crawl towards the title, more importantly pressure the other Goan title contenders into performing.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Penn Orji (East Bengal), Roberto Silva aka Beto (Dempo SC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

East Bengal 1-2 Dempo SC

PUNE FC

v

MUMBAI FC

Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
15th May, 2011 – 7:00 PM IST

***

The big Maharashtra derby kicks off on Sunday at Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune, where Pune FC hosts their neighbors in Mumbai FC. Derrick Perriera’s side slipped to seventh in the league after suffering a 2-1 loss to JCT FC at Ludhiana in their last round match. Guinean Mondjou Kieta scored his tenth goal of the season, but it wasn’t enough as the Pune side returned home without any points. The Pune side now plays out their Round 15 leftover match, which was postponed owing to unavailability of their stadium. A win in this match could see the Red Lizards overhaul Mohun Bagan in the table, and just a point of their guests on Sunday. Derrick is expected to go in with Kieta upfront with J. Prasad or Izumi Arata. Lester Fernandes would once again start just behind the strikers. Subrata Pal will be under the crossbar for the Pune side, with Venkatesh leading the defense. Pune FC would be hoping to finish off notching up wins in style after a hot-&-cold season, where much was expected of them.

Khalid Jamil’s side also lost their last encounter in the I-league, registering their ninth one so far. Mumbai side couldn’t capitalize on the tremendous result of beating Salgaocar at PJN stadium. Mumbai lads were beaten by the Indian Arrows in their den after Kuttimani had equalized for the hosts. A defensive error led to Indian Arrows steal all three points, leaving Khalid Jamil fuming. The Mumbai side still clings on to the fifth position, which is far from the fourth placed Dempo. The Mumbai side has now lost three of their last five matches, and has seen a dip in form after a good opening to the season though a win in this match would consolidate their fifth position finish this season. Khalid Jamil, who saw Henry Ezeh assisting Sampath Kuttimani for the solitary goal in the previous match, will keep the same combination for this match, with Abhishek Yadav coming off the bench. Dane Pereira is suspended for this match. Evans Quao is expected to partner Peter Siddiqui in the center of defense.

With both the teams destined for a mid-table finish, both the coaches would like some confidence to be injected in their squad the curtain is drawn on another season. Last time these two teams met Sampath Kuttimani scored for the Mumbai side at Kolhapur along with G. Kumar to gain all three points for his side.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Mondjou Kieta (Pune FC), Sampath Kuttimani (Mumbai FC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Pune FC 2-0 Mumbai FC

INDIAN ARROWS

V

SALGAOCAR SC

Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Gurgaon
15th May, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

***

Desmond Buplin’s side earned a much required victory in the last round against Mumbai FC, helping them pull a bit away from the relegation zone in the table. The young Indian brigades had lost three matches in a row before this match in the league, and were being threatened by the relegation zone. Lalrindika Raite scored a brace for the side, including a sizzling free kick in the first half to give his side the initial advantage and then sealed the match after finishing off a well constructed goal by the team in the second half AIFF backed side now play out their Round 18 match against Salgaocar at Tau Devilal Stadium, Gurgaon. The Indian arrows have 26 points after 24 games and would be looking to win both of their remaining matches, hoping to surprise a struggling Salgaocar side on their way on Sunday. Jeje is all fired up to start upfront, after missing the last match. Manandeep Singh or Malswamfela may start alongside him. Jagroop will once again start with Captain Raju Gaekwad certainly holding the defense together against a good and all the more hungry Salgaocar attack. Desmond Buplin will certainly miss the services of Shilton Dsilva in the middle for this match as the Mumbai lad is serving a ban for cautions.

Salgaocar’s apple cart has stumbled over the past weeks after hitting some surprise obstacles on their way to title glory. The most recent hurdle being that of Mohun Bagan, doing their arch-rivals a huge favor by holding the Goa side to a draw at YBK in last round. Salgaocar gave away a single goal cushion as they conceded just after the second half, after Gilbert Olivera gave the Goan side the advantage. R. Sueoka restored parity for the Goan Greens earlier in the match. Karim Bencharifa was left lamenting the lack of concentration from his defenders, as he saw his side slip up to second in the table. The problem for the former champions lies at the back, where the defenders have been guilty of leaking in goals. Sueoka and Yakubu are key to this match’s outcome being in Salgaocar’s favor. They both were gelling well in the previous match and are expected to start. Karanjeet Singh would be the reliable custodian for the side, with Luciano Sarbosa slotting in at the centre back position. Gilbert Olivera will lead the attack and would be hoping to continue with the good goal scoring form. Salgaocar have Khangembum Singh suspended for this match.

This match would be more crucial for Salgaocar SS, as Karim Bencharifa’s side would be under tremendous pressure to garner all three points here, as any slip up could really throw them out of the running. Last time these two sides met at PJN stadium, Salgaocar pumped five goals past Indian Arrows goalkeeper. The strikers would be looking to repeat the same dose this Sunday, and thump their way back to the top of the tree.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows), R. Sueoka (Salgaocar SC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Indian Arrows 1-2 Salgaocar SC

JCT FC

v

CHIRAG UNITED SC

Guru Nanak Dev Stadium, Ludhiana
15th May, 2011 – 6:00 PM IST

***

When everyone thought Sukhwinder Singh ‘Sukhi’ had planned another gem of a comeback, JCT were undone in a do-or-die clash for Air India. JCT looked all done and dusted; ready for Division two few weeks ago, when their recent rejuvenation led the side out of the relegation zone. Unfortunately, for them the last round defeat sees them drop back into it. JCT still have two crucial games in hand, one of which they play this weekend against Chirag United at Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana. Ajay Singh has been instrumental in former champions’ fight back and would certainly be our man to watch out for. JCT FC has Omoloja Karim suspended for this encounter, and Sukhwinder Sukhi needs to replace the influential center back for this match. Three points from this match would certainly guarantee another season of top flight football for the inaugural champions.

The men in purple from Kolkata drew their third match in the row in the last round against ONGC FC at Kolhapur. For the books, this is the Subrata Bhattacharya mentored side’s twelfth draw of the season, topping the list. In form India international striker, Sunil Chettri, scored a brace to give the Durand Cup champions the lead, but a late defensive error cost the Kolkata all three points and settle for a single point. Chirag United are currently placed at eighth, and they have their pride to play for as the Kolkata side could slip up even further in the table, depending on the results of Viva Kerala and Indian Arrows, who are just a point behind. Subrata Bhattacharya would once again throw Sunil Chettri and Elijah Junior in the striking zone. Tulunga and Lal Kamal would be running the flanks, checking the runs of Sukhen and Narugopal. Chika Wali would once again start as center back, hoping not to gift goals.

Just as with the other I-league matches on Sunday, there are three precious points at stake for this match as well. The first leg fixture between these two sides saw a goalless stalemate at YBK, which was both teams’ first match of 2011.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Ajay Singh (JCT FC), Sunil Chettri (Chirag United SC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

JCT FC 1-1 Chirag United SC