I-League 2010/11: Preview And Predictions – Round 21

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~ Kunwar Deep Singh & Jonathan DeSousa

DEMPO SC
v
VIVA KERALA

PJN Stadium, Fatorda, Margao, Goa
8th April, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

The Goan juggernaut continued to roll in the second leg of the I-league as the holders got past a struggling Chirag United side in their own backyard. Dempo SC registered their eleventh victory of the season, which was also their eighth consecutive one. They will look to keep up the pressure on Salgaocar when they take on Viva Kerala at Fatorda. They have an important AFC Cup game on Tuesday at Balewadi and they will definitely look to put up a good show that will give hem confidence in the continental cup.

This match will be watched by officials from Danish Club FC Midjtylland – with whom Dempo have signed an agreement to exchange vital technical information and expertise. This would be another incentive for them to play well and impress their guests. There’s nothing more Dempo can do apart from keep winning and piling up the pressure, but the next few weeks could prove decisive in the title race. They still have to play Salgaocar and East Bengal and a win in those two games could throw the title race wide open. They do not have any injury worries and Armando Colaco will have a full strength side at his disposal. The corresponding fixture earlier in the season was won by Dempo 2-0 and there’s nothing to suggest that there will be a change in result specially after Viva Kerala’s inconsistent showing this season.

Viva actually had a team that was worthy of finishing in the top 7 but inconsistent performances has left them fighting to save off relegation. However they are showing signs of improvement of-late as they boosted their chances of survival in the top division of Indian football by securing a resounding victory over JCT FC in their previous I-league engagement at Kannur. Anil Kumar scored a late brace to complete the rout, as the Indian top scorer in the league notched up his tenth of the league.

A win over Dempo coupled by HAL’s loss will see them jump to tenth in the table. Once again N.P Pradeep will be the key for them in midfield and will have to be the creative force. They played brilliantly against JCT with Anil Kumar and Sabeeth looking outstanding. They will have to repeat their performance against Dempo if they have to take anything out of the game. Charles Dzisah and Bello Rasaq at the back will be on their toes against the likes of Beto and Ranty Martins.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Beto (Dempo SC), Anil Kumar (Viva Kerala)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Dempo SC 3-1 Viva Kerala

ONGC FC
v
HAL SC

Sahu Maharaj Stadium, Kohlapur
9th April, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

ONGC FC fought valiantly in their last round match against IFA Shield Champions Churchill Brothers at PJN stadium as they held the former champions to a 3-3 draw. A precious point for the institutional side now makes the drop zone even more interesting and unpredictable. ONGC FC is still slotted at the rock bottom of the league table, 2 points behind JCT FC and Air India. Subrata Bhattacharya (Jr) would be expecting his side to demonstrate another mettlesome performance, this time at home against an out of form HAL side. Three points from this tie would be like gold dust for the Maharashtra side and could catapult them come out of the relegation zone for the time being.  In-form striker Badmus Babatunde would be the man to mark for the HAL defence after his excellent brace in the last round.

Hindustan Aero Limited was humiliated at home by the young contingent of Indian Arrows, as Desmond Buplin’s side slotted four past HAL custodian Pramod. J.Murali’s side is now slotted at tenth, after the slump lately. HAL SC makes a short trip to Kolhapur, in hope to gather all three points and bring their season on track as ONGC occupy the bottom spot of the table. The problem for the Bengaluru side lays in sudden dip in the form of the strikers, and the moves aren’t finishing with the ball in the back of the net. HAL has scored only twice in their last five games, attesting the need for striking early in this match.

R. C Prakash in particular has to be more consistent up front. He has been guilty of spurning gilt edged chances. The likes of Peter Odafe will have to watch out for Xavier Vijay Kumar and R.C Prakash as both of them are potent goal scorers for the Bangalore based side.

HAL had won the home version of the match in February with a goal from Meetei in the second half. ONGC will be looking for revenge this time around. HAL will look to forget the mauling they received against Indian Arrows in last round and look for all three points as it could virtually ensure them another season of top flight football.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Badmus Babatunde (ONGC FC), Xavier Vijaykumar (HAL SC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

ONGC FC 1 – 0 HAL SC

JCT FC
v
MUMBAI FC

Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana
9th April, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

Things have gone from bad to worse this season for the Phagwara side in the league so far. The inaugural champions find themselves just on the outskirts of the dreaded relegation zone with eight games in hand. Sukhwinder Sukhi’s side tasted defeat for the tenth time this season when they were ousted by Viva Kerala at Municipal Stadium in Kannur. The leaky JCT defence let in three second half goals to concede the tie by a margin of three goals. Ajay Singh scored his maiden goal for the Ludhiana side during the match, providing a glimmer of hope, only to be put to be bed by a quick A. Kumar brace. The Millmen have managed to win only three matches this season, but would love to end the insipid season on a high. The team would be hoping to forget the disappointment of Kerala and welcome the Mumbai side to Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana. Sukhi’s side enjoyed a good spell of possession in the last match, but failed to put the ball in back of the net. This has been the story of the season so far for the Ludhiana based club as B. Ibrahim has been the top scorer for the Millmen with just two goals. He would be our Man to watch out for from the Millmen.

Mumbai FC continue with their Cinderella story this season as the club which was about to get dissolved at the start of the season, now sits pretty at fifth in the table. Khalid Jamial mentored side travel to Ludhiana for this tie after drawing their round 20 tie at home against Mohun Bagan. Mumbai side cemented their fifth spot after a point last time, and would be looking to capitalize on it as they face a struggling JCT side, desperate for points.Khalid Jamil’s sided has gathered 26 points from 19 mathces so far, losing twice in their last five.

The corresponding first leg tie between the two clubs ended in a 1-1 stalemate. While Ebi Sukore found the back of the net for Khalid Jamil’s men, Amandeep Singh netted the equalizer for Sukhi’s boys.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

BK Ibrahim (JCT FC), Ebi Sukore (Mumbai FC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

JCT FC 1 – 1 MUMBAI FC

EAST BENGAL
v
MOHUN BAGAN

Yuvabharati Krirangan, Kolkata
9th April, 2011 – 5:00 PM IST

The mother of all the derbies in Indian Football takes place this Saturday at YBK, Kolkata. There’s nothing much to write on this game. In a match like this tactical formation, form, consistency and current position can all be thrown out of the window. It’s the biggest game of the Indian football calender no doubt and a chance for Mohun Bagan to give their long suffering fans something to cheer about. It finished 1-1 in the earlier fixture but the talking point was definitely Trevor Morgan’s outburst and Ashim Biswas’ alleged stamp on Mehtab Hussain. Mohun Bagan have had a dismal season by their standards and only a win here will ease the pain of their long suffering fans.

As usual, it will be a very crucial match for both the sides as three very important points are at stake, especially for the Red-&-Gold brigade, who will look to keep up the pressure on Salgaocar. East Bengal are currently slotted at third in the table, five points behind the leaders Salgaocar, and Trevor Morgan’s side know that they cant afford to lose any more points. The Red-&-Gold registerd their second consecutive 3-0 victory in the league as the Kolkata giants went past Air India in their last assignment. Tolgay Ozbey scored a fantastic second half hattrick to secure all three points, and he would our man to watch out for. Mehtab-Penn would be once again be the key for East Bengal, just like the derby in the first leg. Okpara-Nirmal would be gaurding the fort at the back with Naoba and Soumik acting as the overlapping fullbacks. However reliable goalkeeper Sandip Nandy’s absence due to suspension is a big blow for East Bengal. Young Jayanta Pal, who was the hero for the Red-&-Golds in their Jubilee Cup tiebreaker triumph against Mohun Bagan, could be drafted in to guard the goal in Sandip’s absence.

Mohun Bagan’s stuttering season continued when the Subhas Bhowmick mentored side drew their last round match against Mumbai FC side. The Green-&-Maroon boys did put in a good performance in Kolhapur, but all in vain as once again they coudn’t capitalize on healthy ball posession. The Mariners have only won one game in their last five outings, losing once and drawing three. The Kolkata giants go into this huge match, sitting at sixth in the table with 26 points in their kitty. There is nothing much for the former champions to play for in the league after their recent loss in the IFA Shield final, but the side would not like to give even an inch of ground against their city rivals without a valiant fight. Chidi Edeh would be our man to watch out for among the Green-&-Maroon jersey’s at YBK tommorow. Jose Barreto and Muritala Ali are not 100% fit, but rest assured if required they will be more than willing to play their part even at the cost of risking further prolonged injuries – such is the magnitude of this match in context to history and tradition of the game of football in this country.

As always the refereeing would be crucial for this big match. The official would be under tremendous pressure officiating under the scanner of 100 thousands vocal  YBK crowd – cheering on their heros in the biggest match in Indian Football calender.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Tolgay Ozbey (East Bengal FC), Chidi Edeh (Mohun Bagan AC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

East Bengal 1 – 1 Mohun Bagan

CHURCHILL BROTHERS
v
CHIRAG UNITED

PJN Stadium, Fatorda, Margao

10th April, 2011 – 4:15 PM IST

Churchill are still smarting from those two points dropped against ONGC after taking the lead thrice. Mamic Drago’s first game in charge in the I-League didn’t end on a happy note. He would have been pulling his hair out looking at the way his defenders conceded three soft goals. Ditto for Subrata Bhattacharya whose side conceded four against Dempo. This match will be decided on which defence concedes fewer goals. Both teams are great moving forward but the defences are leaky, making us believe that this game will probably be a goal fest.

The first leg fixture had eight goals in it with Churchill winning 5-3 in the end. Vincent got a brace that time and Steven Dias notched up his first goal for Churchill. Amauri and Karpeh too were on the score sheet. Churchill need the three points desperately although one wouldn’t bet against them taking all three points especially at home. After their IFA Shield win it was probably complacency that left them twiddling their thumbs against ONGC. Subrata Bhattacharya will be hoping Chirag’s season starts again after an equal number of stops. Sunil Chhetri has been gelling well for them but his performance has been nullified by the defence. Chika Wali and Arnab Das will have to play much better than they did against Dempo if they are to take anything out of this game.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Boima Karpeh (Churchill Brothers), Sunil Chhetri (Chirag United)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Churchill Brothers 2 – 1 Chirag United

INDIAN ARROWS
v
PUNE FC

Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Gurgaon

10th April, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

Desmond Bulpins side has exceeded expectations this season. With a ninth position currently and a chance to move up by at least four more places till the end of the season, Bulpin couldn’t have asked for more from his boys. It’s no surprise who the star for them has been. Jeje has been scoring for them regularly and Raju Gaikwad has been defending like a rock. Their 4-0 mauling of HAL has given them plenty of confidence going into their final seven games of the season. They have a chance finishing at least seventh and possibly fifth if all other results go their way. They have their remaining seven games equally distributed between home and away but it would be risky to count them out of a top seven finish, this after being tagged relegation contenders at the beginning of the season. At Balewadi they have every chance of picking all three points against another stop start team of the season.

Derrick must be pulling his hair thinking how to instill consistency in his team. They are brilliant on one day and woeful on another. They are a much better team than their seventh position. Keita hasn’t looked fit enough while Araata has been made to sit on the bench for most of the games due to the foreign quota being filled by Keita, Tamba and Edmar. There is still a chance for them to finish in the top six but that will look a distant dream if they keep performing the way they have.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows), Mondjou Keita (Pune FC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Indian Arrows 1-1 Pune FC

SALGAOCAR
v
AIR INDIA

PJN Stadium, Fatorda, Margao
11th April, 2011 – 4:15 PM IST

The Goan Greens have won their last five fixtures and would be looking to make it six as they welcome the Airmen at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Goa on Monday. Veteran striker Yusuf Yakubu scored the only goal of the match for Salgaocar in their last round match against Pune FC to cap off a good overall display by the team. Salgaocar has only conceded once in their last five games, another startling fact. It is expected that the table toppers would register another comfortable win on Monday as Air India look to survive the drop zone.

The Airmen find themselves in the relegation zone, but only on goal difference – with JCT FC equal on points. The Pilots’ dismal season continues as they slumped to their 3rd defeat in last five games when they were comprehensively outplayed by the Kolkata giants East Bengal in round-20. However they will take inspiration from their gritty defending in the first half against East Bengal and would look to employ similar tactics to snatch a point of the leaders in this match. The Airmen defense led by Eric Bowie, Dhanachandra Singh and Santosh Koli would be looking to replicate the same performance as they make a long journey down to Goa. Any points from this game would be like gold dust for Yusuf Ansari’s side, as they look to survive the drop this season.

1
TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Yusif Yakubu (Salgaocar SC), Eric Bowie (Air India)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Salgaocar SC 2 – 0 Air India

ONGC-HAL

ONGC FC fought valiantly in their last round match against IFA Shield Champions Churchill Brothers at PJN stadium as they held the former champions to a draw. A precious point for the institutional side now makes the drop zone even more interesting and unpredictable. ONGC FC is still slotted at the rock bottom of the league table, 2 points behind JCT FC and Air India. Subrata Bhattacharya (Jr) would be expecting his side to demonstrate another mettlesome performance, this time at home against an out of form HAL side. Three points from this tie would be like gold dust for the Maharashtra side from this tie and could catapult them outside the relegation zone after a long time. Captain fantastic Babatunde would be the man to mark for the Hal defence after his excellent brace in the last round.

Hindustan Aero Limited was humiliated at home by the young contingent of Indian Arrows, as Desmond Buplin’s side slotted four past HAL custodian Pramod. J.Murali’s side is now slotted at tenth, after the slump lately. HAL SC makes a short trip to Kolhapur, in hope to gather all three points and bring their season on track as ONGC occupy the bottom spot of the table. The problem for the Bengaluru side lays in sudden dip of form the strikers, and the moves aren’t finishing with the ball in the back of the net. HAL has scored only twice in their last five games, attesting the need for striking early in this match. J. Murali would be hoping that Hamza-RC Prakash partnership flourishes and his team comes back with all three points to finish the season strongly.

The Bangalore side had won the home version of the match in February with a goal from N.Meetei in the second half. ONGC will be looking for revenge in this crucial tie for both the sides.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Badmus Babatunde (ONGC FC), Xavier Vijay (HAL SC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

ONGC FC 1 – 0 HAL SC

JCT FC- MUMBAI FC

Things have gone from bad to worse this season for the Phagwara side in the league so far. The inaugural champions find themselves just on the outskirts of the dreaded relegation zone with eight games in hand. Sukhwinder Sukhi’s side tasted defeat for the tenth time this season when they were ousted by Viva Kerala at Municipal Stadium in Kannur. The leaky JCT defence let in three second half goals to concede the tie by a margin of three goals. Ajay Singh scored his maiden goal for the Ludhiana side during the match, providing a glimmer of hope, only to be put to be bed by a quick A. Kumar brace. The Millmen have managed to win only three matches this season, but would love to end the insipid season on a high. The team would be hoping to forget the disappointment of Kerala and welcome the Mumbai side to Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana. Sukhi’s side enjoyed a good spell of possession in the last match, but failed to put the ball in back of the net. This has been the story of the season so far for the Ludhiana based club as B. Ibrahim has been the top scorer for the Millmen with just two goals. He would be our Man to watch out for from the Millmen.

Mumbai FC continue with their Cinderella story this season as the club which was about to get dissolved at the start of the season, now sits pretty at fifth in the table. Khalid Jamial mentored side travel to Ludhiana for this tie after drawing their round 20 tie at home against Mohun Bagan. Mumbai side cemented their fifth spot after a point last time, and would be looking to capitalize on it as they face a struggling JCT side, desperate for points.Khalid Jamil’s sided has gathered 26 points from 19 mathces so far, losing twice in their last five.

The corresponding first leg tie between the two clubs ended in a draw. Ebi Sukore and Amandeep Singh netted for both the sides.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

B.Ibrahim (JCT FC), Ebi Sukore (Mumbai FC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

JCT FC 1 – 1 MumBAI FC

EAst Bengal-MOhun BAGan

The mother of all the derbies in Indian Football takes place this Saturday at YBK, Kolkata. As usual, it will be a very crucial match for both the sides as three very important points are at stake, especially for the East Bengal side, who look to keep up with likes of Dempo and Salgaocar. East Bengal are currently slotted at third in the table, five points behind the leaders Salgaocar, and Trevor Morgan’s side know that they cant afford to lose more points, especially if Dempo register a win in today’s encounter, making this a very crucial tie for his side. The Red-&-Gold registerd their consecutive 3-0 victory in the league as the Kolkata giants went past Air India in the last round. T. Ozbey scored a fantastic second half hattrick to secure all three points, and he would our man to watch out. Mehtab-Penn would be once again be the key for East Bengal, just like the derby in the first leg. Okpara would be gaurding the fort at the back with Naoba and Soumik providing the overlapping fullbacks.

Mohun Bagan’s stuttering season continued when the Subhas Bhowmick mentored side drew their last round match against Mumbai Fc side. The Green-&-Maroon boys did put in a good performance in Kolhapur, but all in vain as once again they coudn’t capitalize on healthy ball posession. The MAriners have only won one game in their last five, losing once and drawing three. The Kolkata giants go into this huge match, sitting at sixth in the table with 26 points. There is nothing much for the former champions to play for in the league after their recent loss in the IFA Shield final, but the side would not like to lose against their city rivals. Chidi Edeh would be our man to watch out for among the Green-&-Maroon jersey’s at YBK tommorow.

The derby in the first leg was overshadowed by some controversial referee decisions, among two goals, one from Sanju and other from Jose Barreto. The Referee would be crucial for this big match too, as a huge crowd anticipates at YBK, cheering on their heros in the biggest match in Indian Football.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

T.Ozbey (East Bengal FC), Chidi Edeh (Mohun Bagan AC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

East Bengal Fc 1 – 1 Mohun Bagan AC