MUMBAI FC
v
INDIAN ARROWS

Sahu Maharaj Stadium, Kolhapur
7th May, 4:00 PM IST

***

Khalid Jamil’s side bounced back in style as they threw cat among the Salgaocar SC’s pigeons, by beating the table toppers in their own backyard in an exciting round 24 encounter. The result gave a lifeline to the group of chasers in East Bengal, Churchill Brothers and defending champions Dempo SC. Packed PJN stadium saw Keegan Perreira and veteran Noel Wilson give the Mumbai side a two goals to nil lead inside the first 45 minutes. Goa born Nicolas Rodriguez restored the two goal advantage for Mumbai FC after the Goan Greens pulled one goal back and threatened to stage a spirited comeback. The Mumbai defenders showed nerves of steel as they stood disciplined and organized enough to halt every Salgaocar attack. Without a doubt, Mumbai FC would be high on confidence as they registered their first win in last five games, surprisingly against the table toppers away from home. Khalid Jamil’s side now sits pretty at fifth position in the table, leap-frogging their fellow Maharashtra team, Pune FC. Mumbai lads now welcome Desmond Buplin’s young lads to Sahu Maharaj Stadium. Khalid Jamil is expected to throw the same side on Saturday, except Sukore, who will serve a ban in this match due to consecutive yellow cards. India international Abhishek Yadav has been used sparingly by Khalid Jamil, and he could start alongside Henry at the top of the formation, and captain  Noel leading the mid field battle.

The AIFF sponsored side looks in bit of trouble after the round 24 matches phased out, as the Gurgaon side lost their third consecutive match. Desmond Buplin’s side sits dangerously close to the relegation zone at eleventh, just two points off the drop zone. Indian Arrows have had a slump, after a good spell in the recent rounds, where the strikers were consistently hitting the back of the net. Not surprisingly, the striking contingent has only scored twice in their last four games – which will be Bulpin’s primary concern ahead of this important clash. Indian Arrows face the Mumbai FC challenge on Saturday, in a desperate need to garner some points to stay safe from the drop zone.  Impressive Jagroop Singh is again expected to start under the crossbar, keeping regular goalie Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on the bench. Captain Raju Gaekwad will partner Deepak Devrani in the heart of defense. Shilton D’silva may start this match as he is expected to get the nod ahead of Lalrindika Ralte in the midfield. Manandeep Singh or Jagtar Singh is expected to take the field and partner Jeje upfront, with Malswamfela on the bench for the visitors.

The reverse fixture between these two sides finished in a 1-1 draw at Tau Devi Lal stadium, with Ebi Sukore scoring late in the ninetieth minute to secure a point for the visiting Mumbai outfit after Malswamfela gave Indian Arrows an early lead.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Henry Ezeh (Mumbai FC), Raju Gaekwad (Indian Arrows)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Mumbai FC 2-1 Indian Arrows

VIVA KERALA
v
ONGC FC

Jawahar Municipal Stadium, Kannur
7th May 2011 – 4:30 PM IST

***

The Neelapadda gave themselves a huge lifeline, winning their previous round match against struggling Indian Arrows away from home. Striker Felix Chimakwou gave the keralites an early lead in the 18 minutes in a very crucial tie. Viva Kerala pushed themselves up to a comfortable looking ninth at the moment. Only 5 points separate the last six sides in the table and with only two rounds of matches left for most of the struggling sides, every point would be no less than gold dust. Kunhikrishnan’s side welcome ONGC FC at Kannur for their last home game of the season. Viva has won their last two games, at home, pumping in five goals and conceding only once. Thankfully for the coach, centre back Bello Rasaq has been in scintillating form from last couple of rounds. He would certainly hold the key in this very crucial match for both the sides. Felix would once again start upfront with Anil Kumar in support. NP Pradeep has certainly been instrumental in Viva Kerala winning three of their last five games, and would be hoping to pull the strings from the middle of the park. Sharath would again be the trusted custodian for the Kerala side.

ONGC FC has been in sensational form since their last defeat at Balewadi Sports Complex in Round 19, having won three and drawn two since then.  The institutional side is slotted at tenth in the table, and would hope to capitalize on their amazing comeback story, as Subrata Bhattacharya (Jr.) led side travel to Kannur for an important showdown. All three points could see ONGC replace Viva Kerala in the standings. Nigerian ND Opara notched up a crucial brace in last round scoring a last minute spot kick in to secure a point for his side and break Chirag United faithful’s hearts in Yuvabharati Krirangan. Opara took his tally to seven goals for the season with the help of these two vital gaols. Robin Gurung and Gour Naskar have been playing really well at the back, nullifying many dangerous moves, and with Opara, Captain Babatunde and Japanese Katsumi Yusa combining well upfront, the side is looking dangerous. It is yet to be seen that whether is it too late for the Maharashtra side or have they done enough to avoid the drop.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

NP Pradeep (Viva Kerala), Babatunde (ONGC FC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Viva Kerala 1-1 ONGC FC

HAL SC
v
CHURCHILL BROTHERS SC

Sree Kantheerva Stadium, Bangalore
8th May, 2011 – 4:00 PM IST
***

 

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. sporting club play their twenty fourth encounter in the I-league as they host IFA shield champions Churchill Brothers at Sree Kantheevera Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday. HAL have slipped to the bottom of the table, largely due to the recent loss of form; where Murali’s side lost their last six encounters in seven matches. The Bengaluru side now tops the list of the teams having lost maximum number of games this season. HAL has twenty points form twenty three games and the team will have to perform out of the ordinary to hoard any points from their last three fixures, which are against three teams chasing the title. HAL need to make full use of the home advantage as they finish the season at home welcoming East Bengal. RC Prakash has scored in both of the last two home defeats for the Bangalore based side and would be our man to watch out for. The surprise patch of form for the other struggling teams in and around the drop zone has made HAL’s survival hopes even more diminishing. Now  the struggling side has to collect minimum one point from every match they play, to give themselves a decent chance of survival.

Abdulla Hamza is expected to start alongside Prakash in the attacking third with Murli and Meetei in the middle of the park. Additon of Xavier Vijay Kumar would certainly add teeth to a blunt HAL midfeild, who makes the return from suspension. The strikers need to get their act right and as Coach Thyagaraj would be expecting a meetlesome performance from his team, thus contibuting to the string of surprises which I-League faithful have become used to from the past few rounds .

Churchill coach Drago Mamic would certainly be dissapointed with his team’s performance in the last round as Churchill Brothers were made to share points at their home against a struggling Air India side. The draw makes the chances of Churchill Brothers winning the I-League title even more bleak as they have already played more matches than the othertitle contenders. Any more slip ups could virtually derail the title ambition forthe Goan Whites. Drago’s side would be looking to proclaim all three points in this fixture and go top of the table, and hoping that Salgaocar slip up again at YBK against the Mariners.

Churchill are expected to start with their influential captain Odafa upfront partnered by Bineesh. Charan Rai, who has been in very good form, would be expected to start on the right flank,  with MP Zakir in the attacking mideo role. Gouramnagi Singh led defense needs to synch together to avoid those late goals which they conceded in their last few games. Robert Lalthalma, a master of doing some marauding overlapping runs, will start at the left back.

It is a must win match for both the sidea, but for different causes altogether. When these sides met at PJN stadium, earlier this season, all three points were put in the bag by the former champions with Bineesh, Zakeer and Vincent on the scoresheet. HAL SC coudnt strike the back of the net only once in January, but would be hoping for an opposite result this time around at home, as this match could very well decide their futue in the top tier football.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

RC Prakash (HAL SC), Bineesh Balan (Churchill Brothers SC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

HAL SC 1-3 Churchill Brothers SC

AIR INDIA
v
JCT FC

Sahu Maharaj Stadium, Kolhapur
8th May, 4:00 PM IST

***

 

The Pilots lost their last round match against the Mariners and are currently slotted in the relegation zone at eleventh. This was the eleventh loss of the season for the Airmen. Round 25 will see Air India play their last match of the season at Sahu Maharaj Stadium in Kolhapur. With everything to play for, Santosh Kashyap is expected to throw in an attacking line up on Sunday evening. Okorogor Praise will start upfront with Manjit Singh, who had a decent game against Mohun Bagan in last round. Yusif Ibrahim would be sitting just behind the strikers in an expected 4-4-2 formation. Napolean Singh would be once again leading the defending line for the Pilots in this important fixture. The Airmen would miss the services of mid-fielder Amritpal Singh, as he is suspended due to back to back yellow cards. A win at home against JCT would certainly spring the side out of the drop zone, but Air India still needs to pin their hopes of survival on favorable results from other matches as well.

The Millmen have been sensational in their last few rounds, nothcing up three wins in their last five matches, collecting vital 9 points on the way. JCT registered their sixth victory at Ludhiana in the last round fixture against Pune FC, which saw in form striker Ajay Singh score for the hosts, and eventually Saktar Singh doubling the lead to put the game beyond Derrick Pereira’s side. Captain Omolaja Karim led defense did their job quite brilliantly; resisiting waves of attacks, and Sukhi would be expecting that the backline continues from where they left in their round-24 tie. Amandeep Singh returns for the Punjab side after serving a single match ban, and is expected to start this match. Badru Keke Ibrahim would be the playmaker with Gurtej partnering Ajay upfront.

This match could sort out the drop zone further as three points for either side can spell trouble for other relegation battling teams. Former champions JCT still have two games in hand compared to their rivals, which could very well end up to be the saviour for the Ludhiana side this season. JCT have hit form just at the right time and there is a huge possibility that Sukhwinder Sukhi has once again masterminded an escape route for his side. However a loss in this match could still stir up the bottom of the table and make things intresting for the Millmen.

First leg encounter between these two sides finished in a 2-0 victory for the Punjab side with Omoloja Kareem and Ibrahim both getting their names on the score sheet. With both expected to start this match too, Air India defenders clearly know whom to mark.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Okorogor Praise (Air India), Ajay Singh (JCT FC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Air India 1-1 JCT FC

MOHUN BAGAN AC
v
SALGAOCAR SC

YBK, Kolkata
9th May 2011 – 5:00 PM IST

***

The Mariners found some wind for their sail as they managed to end their barren winless spell in the league by registering a comfortable victory over Air India in the previous round clash in Kolkata. Muritala Ali scored a second half brace to collect all three points for the former champions, taking them to sixth in the table with 30 points of 23 games. Subhash Bhowmick would surely like his side to finish the season well and more importantly, in the top half of the table.

Round 25 witnesses a very important match with respect to the title, as Mohun Bagan could do a huge favor to their arch rivals East Bengal by snatching some points of the table toppers and under pressure Salgaocar side. Muritala Ali would miss this encounter as he picked up consecutive yellows, and will be replaced by club captain Ishfaq Ahmed. Chidi Edeh would start the match alongside him. Jayanta, Manish Mathani, Snehashish and Gouranga could once again be deployed at the midfield by the veteram ctactician in this crucial match. All three points could see a under fire Mohun Bagan side jump to fifth in the table.

Karin Bencharifa mentored side have often been tagged as ‘chokers’ by I- League followers, and this could come back to haunt him once again as his side lost it’s third match in five games to virtually throw the title race wide open. Salgaocar would be under tremendous pressure as they need to perform and get all three points from this fixture to maintain their lead at the top of the table. Salgaocar have Milagres Gonsalves suspended for this fixture, so the Goan Greens are expected to go in with Gilbert Olivera and Govin treading the flanks. Yusif Yakubu and Sueoka will lead the attack at YBK and hope to increase their goal tally this season. Captain Luciano Sabrosa would be hoping to pull all the strings in defense, this time to make sure that the side doesn’t leak in goals, as the Goan side does eventually end up scoring in almost every match.

The last time these two sides met was at PJN stadium in January and intrestingly both the probabale strikers for Mohun Bagan in this match, Chidi and Ishfaq, were a menace for Salgaocar defenders that day, contributing in a 3-1 victory. Sueoka scored the consolation goal for the Goan side. It’s yet to be seen whether the Mariners end up doing a double over the title aspirant side or not.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For:

Chidi Edeh (Mohun Bagan), Ryuiji Sueoka (Salgaocar SC)

TheHardTackle’s Prediction:

Mohun Bagan 2-1 Salgaocar SC