DEMPO SC
v
INDIAN ARROWS

PJN Stadium, Margao, Goa
16th April 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

***

The Round 22 of I-League kicks off with defending champions Dempo hosting the young Indian brigade of Indian Arrows at PJN Stadium in Margaon on Saturday. Dempo’s winning streak came to a halt, surprisingly at home against a resurgent Viva Kerala side. Armando Colaco would be ruing the fact that his side let slip a golden chance to maintain the pressure on the leaders as the table toppers Salgaocar dropped three points past Monday on the same ground. Ranti Martins scored another brace for the Goan outfit, but the problem seems to be in the defense, which needs to be sorted out. Dempo led twice in their previous encounter, but could only garner a single point.

Dempo have had a torrid week as they lost their AFC Champions League Qualifying match at Balewadi Sports Complex to Nasaf Qarshi FC of Uzbekistan. Colaco would like to end the week with a comprehensive win over the Indian Arrows. Kattimani replaced Subhashish in the goal for the mid-week AFC clash, after Subhashish’s howler in the game against the Kochi side cost them vital 2 points. Centre back Dominic is injured and will be replaced by Covan, who is expected to pair up with veteran Mahesh Gawli at the centre of defense. Ranti Martins could be the lone striker up front with Colaco going for 4-5-1 formation once again, having Beto positioned just in front of the four man mid field, to synch up with Ranti.

Desmond Buplin’s side played out a dissapointing goalless draw at Tau Devilal Stadium in Gurgaon in their Round 21 clash last weekend. Indian Arrows are currently slotted in the lower half of the table despite of recent string of good results. The AIFF sponsored team now travel to Goa to face off against Dempo SC. Indian Arrows have sprung a few surprises this season, pumping in goals in some tough fixtures. Jeje Lalpekhlua has been in terrific form off-ate and has been a revelation for his side this season. The midfield of Malsawmfela, Shilton Dsilva and Jewel Raja has shown tremendous maturity as the season has progressed, to help their side afloat this season. Coach Buplin will be banking on these players for a good result at Fatorda this Saturday, as Indian Arrows try to consolidate their mid table status in their debut season. Malsawmfela is expected to start this match, after missing out in the last round.

Earlier this season the match between both these teams ended in a stalemate with Ranti and Shilton scoring in the 1-1 draw at Gurgaon.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Ranti Martins Soleye (Dempo SC),  Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indain Arrows)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Dempo SC 2 – 1 Indian Arrows


VIVA KERALA
v
MUMBAI FC

Jawahar Municipal Stadium, Kannur
16th April 2011 – 4:30 PM IST

***

Viva Kerala scripted a gritty comeback in their last round match against Champions Dempo SC, coming back from a two goal deficit to claim a point at full time. It was a precious away point for Kunhikrishnan’s side as they find themselves slotted at eleventh in the table now, courtesy two wins and a draw in their last five games. Anil Kumar notched up his tenth I-League goal, with NP Pradeep’ s goal completing the comeback against Dempo. Viva Kerala play their second last match at Kannur on Saturday, and would like to make most of it, as they have two tough away games at YBK before the season reaches its climax. The relegation fear still looms large over the Kerala side as they have played more matches than JCT FC, fighting in the drop zone. There are even rumors floating about the institutional sides (PSU’s) getting the boot this season due to AFC licensing criteria. But Viva would like to remain safe before AIFF reveals its plans come end of the season, and would like to play in the Indian premier division of football, based on merit itself.

The Mumbai based side lost their round 21 match in Ludhiana by a solitary goal conceded in the initial minutes of the first half. After a wonderful start to the season, the Mumbai side’s title challenges have fizzled out, but are still slotted at respectable fifth in the table. Mumbai side has lost their way in their recent matches, losing three out of their last five matches, conceding seven goals and replying with only three. The sudden drought in front of the goal has hit the side a lot. Khalid Jamil would be proud of his side after the side was threatened to be disbanded at the start of the season and their captain Nishanth Mehra tested positive for a banned substance in the mid-season.

His side has shown the composure and maturity to stay among the best in the league. Coach and the players would like to end the season on a high, stamping their position in I-league. Henry and Sukore have scored eleven goals among them this season, and would like to add a few before the season ends. Ebi Sukore scored a brace in the first leg of this corresponding fixture, helping his side hoard all three points at Kolhapur. Abhishek Yadav would also like to break his duck in the league and don the scoring boots. All three of them are expected to start at Kannur this Saturday.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Anil Kumar  (Viva Kerala), Ebi Sukore (Mumbai FC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Viva Kerala 2 – 0 Mumbai FC


CHIRAG UNITED SC
v
MOHUN BAGAN AC

Yuvabharati Krirangan, Kolkata

16th April, 2011 – 5:00 PM IST

***

I-League fans would get a back to back dose of Kolkata derbies as Mohun Bagan look to lock horns against the other Kolkata side in Chirag United at YBK this Saturday. The Mariners lost the biggest match in Indian Football last weekend against their arch rivals East Bengal, conceding two goals and scoring one. Top club official Debashish Dutta resigned in the aftermath of the loss taking the blame of 4th loss in the season against East Bengal on his own shoulders.

After Tolgay gave the Red-&-Golds an early lead, right back Surkumar singh restored parity just after the lemon break, just to see his fellow defenders let in another goal. Kingshuk Debnath had a forgettable game and would like to start fresh for this huge game, as he would be called in once again to replace Deepak Mondal, who is out due to suspension. Masih would also miss this round’s match due to suspension and would be replaced by Sagaram Mandi.  Mohun Bagan still remains sixth in the table as other sides failed to capitalize on their loss. Coach Subhas Bhowmick would hope that the disappointing season ends quickly with his players showcasing some good performances in the remaining matches. Mohun Bagan’s lethal goal scorer Jose Barreto got injured in the last derby clash, and could miss out as well.

The men in purple lost their previous round match at PJN, Fatorda against Churchill Brothers. This was Subrata Bhattacharya mentored side’s second loss in their last five games as they find themselves slotted a position below their city rivals. Sunil Chettri gave the visitors lead in the first half with a spectacular bicycle kick, but haphazard defending saw Churchill score two goals inside 5 minutes in the second half to send the Durand cup holders packing without points. This has been the disappointing part of the story so far for the Kolkata club. Sunil looks to have found some form after a barren spell and would be a certain starter for this match. Both the teams would be looking to garner all three points as both teams could move a spot up the league standing with a victory here.

Both the teams recently met in the IFA Shield which ended in a 1-1 draw. Earlier this season, Chirag United came away with all three points after another insipid Mohun Bagan performance at YBK. Josimar scored for the Men in Purple in that game and he is expected to partner Chettri upfront in the upcoming tie as well. Subrata is once again expected to go with Lalkamal-Choi-Soumik-Tulunga midfield against Mohun Bagan. The new signing Choi is still to impress the Chirag United faithful, and would like to put in some good performances in the few matches left.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Sunil Chettri (Chirag United SC), Kingshuk Debnath (Mohun Bagan AC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Chirag United FC 1 – 1 Mohun Bagan AC


CHURCHILL BROTHERS
v
SALGAOCAR SC

PJN Stadium, Margao, Goa
17th April 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

***

Without a doubt, this would be the clash of the round as table toppers Salgaocar take on the second placed Churchill Brothers at PJN Stadium on Sunday. Both the teams are equal on points, but Churchill have played 2 more games than their counterparts in the league. Drago Mamic’s side won their Round 21 clash against struggling Chirag United at home, showcasing a spirited comeback after being a goal down. An own goal resulting from a Raju Yimnan cross restored parity and Zakeer gave the Goans lead in a gap of seven minutes, giving all three crucial points to the newly crowned IFA shield champions.

All three points here in this fixture would see Churchill Brothers sit at the summit of the table. Boss Churchill Alemao has been an open critic of his team and match officials from past few matches, and the players would not like to have another hair-dryer treatment form their boss in this crucial tie which could play a huge part in Churchill’s title hopes this season. Coach Drago Mamic is once again expected to deploy an attacking line up with Odafa and Karpeh leading the strike force. Charan Rai would pair up with MP Zakeer and Israil Gurung in the middle of the park. Gourmangi Singh and Raju are expected to pair up in front of Vinay on goal.

Salgaocar SC threw cat among the pigeons, after they were blanked by lowly Air India at home in the Round 21 clash. In the match, which could easily be a contender for shock result of the season, Salgaocar failed to score as they registered their fourth loss of the season. The Goan Greens, who had notched up thirteen goals in their last four matches, suddenly found their strike partnership of Yakubu and Gilbert failing to score, up against good defensive display by the Airmen. Coach Karim Bencharifa would have been left furious and lamenting the missed chances. He would want more professionalism from his strikers in this big Goan Derby. Luciano Sabrosa led defense has to be on their toes against Odafa led attack if they want to entertain any chances of consolidating their top spot after this round. Yakubu is expected to once again lead the Salgaocar attack along with the young and sensational Gilbert Olivera. Japanese Sueoka is expected to pull the strings in the mid-field and Karanjit would be in goal for the Goans.

The first leg encounter of this derby was a sensational seven goal thriller which ended in a nail biting finish. Salgaocar came on the top in January after they slotted in four goals. Ryuiji Sueoka scored a brace for Goan Greens while Kayne Vincent came up with similar effort for the Goan Whites, in absence of Odafa in that match. Revenge would be on the cards for the back to back IFA shield champions this time around in front of a big crowd on Sunday.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

MP Zakeer (Churchill Brothers), R.Sueko (Salgaocar SC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Churchill Brothers SC 1 – 1 Salgaocar SC


ONGC FC
v
JCT FC

Sahu Maharaj Stadium, Kohlapur
17th April, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

***

This is the first one of the two important and very crucial bottom of the table clashes lined up this Sunday which would eventually decide the drop zone. The first one is played out at Sahu Maharaj Stadium in Kolhapur between ONGC FC and JCT FC. Both the teams have struggled over the season to garner points and subsequently move up the table. Surprisingly both the teams won their previous round matches, both being difficult. ONGC sprung a huge surprise and sent shock waves in the table as they slotted four past hapless HAL side in Bengaluru. Subrata Bhattacharya (Jr) mentored side has scored an astonishing nine goals in their last five games, hoarding precious four points in the last two. Captain fantastic Badmus Babatunde has scored four in the last five appearances for the institutional side, and would be hoping to do the same in this very crucial tie for the Kolhapur club. ONGC have a chance to leap frog their opponents and get out of the relegation zone, as Air India have a tough tie against East Bengal to deal with in this Round. Kailash Patil, who scored a brace in the last match, is expected to start with ND Opara upfront for the Airmen.

JCT FC did themselves a huge favor by winning against a disciplined Mumbai FC side at Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, courtesy a solitary strike from Ajay Singh. This was Sukhwinder Sukhi’s side’s first win in their last five games. The Millmen still have seven games in hand, two more than other strugglers in or hovering above the drop zone. JCT’s defence led held their nerve in the last round and the strikers would be looking to repeat the home performance at Kolhapur this time. A win here would certainly assure another top division season for the inaugural champions.

The first leg fixture of this season saw JCT FC clinch their one of the only four victories in the league, winning by a lone goal scored by the Nigerian B. Ibrahim in January.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Badmus Babatunde (ONGC FC), B. Ibrahim (JCT FC)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

ONGC FC 1 – 1 JCT FC


HAL SC
v
AIR INDIA

Sree Kantheerva Stadium, Bangalore
17th April, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST
***

The Bangalore side takes on a resurgent Air India outfit at Sri Kanteveera Stadium on Sunday, as they start to string together home matches, compensating for not playing at home during the initial rounds of the league. This could be a huge blessing in disguise for the Bangalore based club, as they have an added advantage of playing on the home turf and a supporting crowd. J. Murali’s side was humiliated by ONGC in the last round game at Kolhapur, as the opponents slotted four past the helpless Promod under the HAL woodwork. HAL SC has only managed to hoard a single point in their last five games, scoring only a single goal and conceding thirteen. The problem for the Karnataka side lies at the defense, which has been guilty of letting too many goals in before the lemon break. The goals have certainly dried up, where Abdullah Hamza needs to tighten up some screws. Meetei and Vijay Kumar are expected to partner each other in the middle of the park with veteran R.C. Prakash playing alongside Hamza upfront in a 4-4-2 set-up.

Air India would be buoyed by their glorious win over table toppers Salgaocar SC, which has threw the title race wide open. Manjit Singh unleashed a superb goal just before the full time to bring the downfall of the Goan Greens at their home ground in last round, stunning the Goan faithful. Coach Santosh Kashyap would be expecting a repeat of same resolute and robust defending from the defensive line-up consisting of Eric-Santosh-Nepolean-Dhanachandra. Their Goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal also expected to be pumped up for this game after a gritty and mettlesome performance against Salgaocar. Okorogor Praise would lead the attack along with Manjit Singh, the hero from the last match. Praise has steadily raised his tally to seven goals this season, and would be our man to watch out for.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

N. Meetei (HAL SC), O. Praise (Air India)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

HAL SC 0 – 1 Air India


PUNE FC
v
EAST BENGAL FC

Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
18th April, 2011 – 7:00 PM IST

***

Pune FC continues with their hot-&-cold season as they drew their round 21 match in Gurgaon against Indian Arrows. The Pune side hasn’t won since the IFA shield break and would be looking to spring up an upset as they welcome East Bengal at Balewadi Sports Complex. Derrick’s side will have Subrata back in their team after suspension and would be starting for the Red Lizards in the goal. He would be the man to watch out for as it is expected to be a busy evening for him up against impressive East Bengal forward line, which have their tail up, sniffing the title chance. The Pune side will count on their foreign recruits to step up in this huge match which could see a healthy home support. Edmar hasn’t scored for the club in the I-league since early March and Mandjou Kieta scored a late equalizer against struggling ONGC before the IFA Shield break. Since then the Pune side have notched up only a single goal in two matches. Coach Derrick  Pereira would be expecting a much better performance from his team as the team finds itself slotted at a comfortable eighth, but could finish the week at seventh, if they manage to upset the Kolkata giants and take all three points from this fixture.

East Bengal celebrated their 150th win in the top division of Indian Football, and that couldn’t have come in a better match for the famous Red-&-Gold Brigade of Kolkata. The former champions had a huge boost to their title aspiration after they defeated their arch rival Mohun Bagan in the last round, eventually doing a double over them in this season’s I-League. The Fed cup winners are now just two pints off the table toppers Salgaocar. The Australian recruit Tolgay Ozbey scored his first derby goal to give East Bengal the lead and former JCT player Baljit Singh Sahni’s goal restoring it after a Mohun Bagan equalizer. Sandip Nandy and Robin, both are expected to make a return to I-league action. East Bengal was defeated by South China in their midweek AFC Cup match by a solitary goal in a hard fought game. Gurwinder Singh and Okpara were rock solid and very influential in defense, as both of them would be looking to carry forward the form in this crucial match. Mehtab Hussain would be orchestrating all the moves from the middle for the Red-&-Gold brigade.


TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Edmar (Pune FC), Tolgay Ozbey (East Bengal)


TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Pune FC 1 – 2 East Bengal