SALGAOCAR SC
v
MUMBAI FC

PJN Stadium, Margao, Goa
29th April, 4:15 PM IST

***

Round 24 of the I-league commences on Friday at PJN stadium in Margaon, where leaders Salgaocar welcome Mumbai FC in a crucial encounter which would make or break the title aspiration of the Goan Greens. Karim Bencharifa’s side lost a vital match in last round against defending champions Dempo SC; a result which paved way for a mouthwatering end to an already unpredictable season. The Goan Greens have lost two out of their last five games in the league, denting their chances to win the national football league for the second time. Against Dempo Yusuf Yakubu equalized for Salgaocar after the defending Champions took an early lead, taking his personal tally to twelve, but all went in vain as Dempo slotted two more goals past Karanjit to notch up a comfortable 3-1 victory in the end. Captain Luciano Sabrosa-led Salgaocar defense had a match to forget as they look forward to win all their remaining matches and maintain their lead at the summit of the table. Any bloopers now would really cost the Goan side heavily as both East Bengal and Dempo look to tighten screws on the top of the table. This is the second last match Salgaocar play on their home turf before the season ends and veteran coach Karim Bencharifa would like to capitalize on the home advantage.

Salgaocar are expected to deploy their usual suspects in the striking department with Japanese Sueoka and Yakubu forming a fearsome attacking combo. Francis and Gilbert would support them in attack on the wings; with Jaspal and Lamare being the overlapping full backs. Salgaocar would like to capitalize on Dempo and East Bengal not playing this week, by going for all three points, as this would just increase the gap between them and the chasing pack for the time being and would add to the pressure when these sides play next week.

Mumbai FC have had torrid time recently, losing three and drawing two of their last five in the league. Khalid Jamil’s side has been struggling in front of the goal, scoring only one since Round 17. The Mumbai side find themselves slotted at sixth with 29 points from 21 games, just behind Pune FC on goal difference. In previous round, they played out yet another stalemate as Mumbai FC failed to take the home advantage. As Khalid Jamil takes his side to Goa for this fixture, he would hope that his strikers and midfielders finally come to the party and at least try to garner some points from this tough fixture. There has been no shortage of surprises in I-league so far, and the Mumbai side would be hoping to contribute another one this Friday. Henry and Sukore both seemed to be synching well against Chirag United in round 23. Veteran Noel Wilson would be looking to string some moves together from midfield and create some goal scoring opportunities. Kutty Mani looked sharp in the previous match and would be our man to watch out for the struggling Mumbai Side.

The first leg between these two teams finished in a victory for the Goan boys, with Sueoka scoring in the first half and Salgaocar defense holding their fort to gain all three points in January. The Goan Greens would be hoping to do a double over the Mumbai side, whereas Mumbai FC would be hoping to pile on more misery for the Goan side in their about to be derailed title chase.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

R. Sueoka (Salgaocar SC), Sampath Kutty Mani (Mumbai FC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Salgaocar SC 2 – 0 Mumbai FC

 

ONGC FC
v
CHIRAG UNITED SC

Sahu Maharaj Stadium, Kolhapur
29th April, 4:00 PM IST

***

It has been an amazing comeback by Subrata Bhattacharya (Jr)’s side in the second half of the campaign, which could not be anticipated beforehand after their dismal showing in the first part of the season. Yet again his lads inspired an unbelievable comeback at YBK in their last round clash against the Mariners. Kailash Patil scored a remarkable brace in seven minutes to land all three points to the rejuvenated institutional side. The victory, their third successive one, saw ONGC wriggle out of the drop zone, currently slotted at eleventh in the table. ONGC are to play two of their last three games at Sahu Maharaj Stadium, their home ground – certainly a boost for the Mumbai boys. ONGC welcome a gloomy Chirag United side, who haven’t won a single game after the IFA Shield break. ONGC would be looking for no less than all three points from this fixture and would like to carry on with momentum in this match. Japanese Katsumi Yusa would be our man to watch out for after a splendid performance at YBK, phasing well with Babatunde and Opara. Gour Naskar led defense would like to reproduce their mettlesome performance in this match as well. Veteran Jatin Singh Bisht and Robin Gurung are once again expected to play crucial roles for the institutional side.

Chirag United have somehow maintained their eighth spot in the league, with other teams not able to take advantage of their slump. The men in purple played out a goalless draw at Sahu Maharaj Stadium in their last round match against Mumbai FC, their eleventh of the season. Drawing matches has hurt the Durand Cup champions this season. Sunil Chettri’ s sudden burst of form could hurt ONGC’s ‘staying afloat’ ambitions, but he missed a lot of chances in the last round. Subrata Bhattacharya mentored side would be looking to garner some points form this match and try to leapfrog fellow Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan in the league standings. Lalkamal Bhowmick is expected to lead the midfield battle with Jerry and Tulunga in support. Elijah Junior will partner Sunil upfront who thumped a goal in the reverse fixture at YBK, where Chirag United collected all three points. Badmus Babatunde scored a brace in that match, but to no avail.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Katsumi Yusa (ONGC FC), Elijah Junior (Chirag United SC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

ONGC FC  1 – 2 Chirag United SC

 

INDIAN ARROWS
v
VIVA KERALA

Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Gurgaon
30th April, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST

***

Desmond Buplin’s side is suddenly struggling for form as they slumped to yet another loss against JCT FC at Guru Nanak stadium in Phagwara in round 23. As the teams in the drop zone registered victories, the AIFF sponsored side finds themselves just three points off the relegation zone now at ninth spot. Indian Arrows now welcome tenth placed Viva Kerala side, who are just one point off their hosts at Tau Devi Lal Stadium on Saturday. Indian Arrows are expected to deploy the same 4-4-2 formation with Jeje and Jagtar upfront. Shilton Dsilva is expected to start after missing out the last match due to suspension and will be slotting in the middle of the park along with Jibon, Dika and Jewel. Captain Raju Gaekwad would certainly be disappointed after a crucial loss to JCT and would be looking to showcase a better performance at home.

Viva Kerala, just like their opponents in Round 24, lost their last round match against East Bengal at YBK by a three goal margin. The Neelapadda are currently two points off the relegation zone and any slip up’s from now on could see Kunhikrishnan’s side drop back into it. Right back Charles Dzisah would be missing this encounter due to back to back yellow cards. Striker Felix too had a nice game last time around and would be expecting to do the same at Gurgaon on Saturday. Veteran NP Pradeep and top scoring Indian in the league, Anil Kumar is expected to partner him in search of the goals. Captain Bello Rasaq would once again lead the backline.

The reverse fixture in January finished with young brigade garnering all three points at Kannur. Subodh Kumar scored a late goal then, and would be hoping that his team repeats the feat against the Keralian outfit at home this Saturday.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows), NP Pradeep (Viva Kerala)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Indian Arrows 2 – 1 Viva Kerala

 

MOHUN BAGAN AC
v
AIR INDIA

Yuvabharati Krirangan, Kolkata
1st May, 2011 – 5:00 PM IST

***

It is now more of a formality for the Mariners to play their remaining matches as they continue with their disastrous season. Subhash Bhowmick mentored side snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory in their last round as the former champions were cruising with a one goal lead, only to succumb to ONGC’s Kailash Patil blitzkrieg in the dying moments. The Mariners have slipped down to seventh in the league, losing their seventh game of the season against ONGC FC at YBK in Round 23.

Mohun Bagan welcome the Pilots at YBK this Sunday, in desperation to hoard all three points from this fixture and calm down the Green-&-Maroon faithful, which pelted stones at the players after the final whistle in last match. Subhash Bhowmick is expected roll on the same side which started the last match. Muritala will be lone striker upfront, with Manish Mathani just playing off the striker. Snehashish would start as the left out once again and would be hoping to loop in some dangerous balls for his strikers and poaching midfielders to work upon. The absence of Chidi Edeh came back to hurt the Kolkata side in the previous match, and it is yet to be seen that how do the former champions fil the void left by the influential captain.

The Airmen are currently slotted twelfth in the league, just breathing above the relegation zone with a one point advantage over JCT FC, who has 2 games in hand. The Pilots have recently found a purple patch, just like other teams in the ever so unpredictable drop zone, winning two and drawing the last match, out of their last five in the league. Up against Mohun Bagan, the Mumbai based club makes a long trip to YBK for this round’s match. As it is, very few expect Air India to stay afloat this season as Santosh Kashyap is set to play defending champions Dempo in the penultimate round of the I-league. In the previous round, Air India grabbed a crucial and well-earned point at home against IFA Shield champions and title contenders Churchill Brothers. Okorogor Praise continued with his sensational addition to the league, scoring a brace to level the score late in the second half injury time. Praise would certainly be our man to watch out for, but he would not be getting the support of Eric Mputu in this match, as he is suspended. Goalkeeper Abhijit Ghosh needs to be at the top of his game to counter all the MMB moves, if the Airmen need to entertain any chance of gaining some points from this match.

The previous encounter between these two sides finished in a 1-1 draw with Manjit singh scoring for the Airmen. A similar result would be what Santosh Kashyap would be hoping on Sunday.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Muritala Ali (Mohun Bagan AC), Okorogor Praise (Air India)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Mohun Bagan AC 1 – 1 Air India

JCT FC
v
PUNE FC

Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana
1st May 2011, 4:00 PM IST

***

The last game on Sunday kicks off at Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana between the hosts and inaugural champions JCT FC and Pune FC. The Millmen were given a huge lifeline as they defeated Indian Arrows at home by a comfortable two goal margin in round 23. Sukhwinder Sukhi proved his tactical masterclass as both the second half substitutes hit the back of the net to earn crucial three points for the Phagwara based side. Badru Ibrahim gave the hosts a deserved lead, a goal just after the lemon break – which could end up changing the fortunes of the Phagwara side in their survival battle. JCT goalkeeper Naveen Kumar performed brilliantly in the last match, making some brilliant stops and distributing the ball well. He would be our man to watch out for as JCT welcomes a Pune FC side, having their tails up. Number 17 for JCT FC, Jagpreet singh is set to miss this tie due to suspension. Captain Omoloza Kareem is all set to lead from the back once again.

Pune FC sits pretty at fifth in the table after a comfortable away victory in Bangalore in the last round. Lester Fernandez gave them the lead and, the man in form, Mandjou Kieta doubled it minutes after the half time. Derrick Perriera’s side would like to continue with their good form and would plan to win their third successive match in Ludhiana on Sunday. Pune will miss their overlapping right back Othello Tabia due to suspension. Both Mandjou and Lester are expected to phase together with Arata as the playmaker from the middle. The Guinean scored a hat trick when these two sides met at the Balewadi Sports complex earlier this season, in a 4-0 drubbing of the Punjab side. JCT would definitely have that loss on the back of their mind, as they look to pgarner all three points in their kitty, and consolidate their position in ‘out of the drop’ zone for the time being.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Gurtej Singh (JCT FC), Mandjou Keita (Pune FC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

JCT FC 1 – 1 Pune FC