As the round 6 of I-League beckons, TheHardTackle takes a look at the matches and also at key tactical battles that could shape the results in the seven matches to be played in this round.
Karim Bencherifa ‘s New and Old Clubs Square off
Karim Bencherifa ‘s new club Mohun Bagan host his previous club – Salgaocar FC in what promises to be a high voltage match. In an unlikely move Karim Bencherifa has recently joined Mohun Bagan in a deal that makes him one of the best paid Indian coaches. The move was significant considering the bonding between Bencherifa and Salgaocar staff and players. Salgaocar FC owners had given Bencherifa a free hand in club management and were naturally angered by his decision. Bencherifa however, will not be able to guide Bagan as he is serving his one month notice period which incidentally expires on the 17th itself.
The match is also of extreme importance for both the clubs as both of them have failed to impress so far and have looked patchy in the five matches, struggling to find the right combination. A win for either of the teams could see them gain significant momentum and could act as a catalyst for the rest of the season. It has been learnt that Karim Bencherifa will be watching the match from the VIP stands.
Churchill Brothers – East Bengal Clash in the Battle In-Form Teams
Churchill Brothers and East Bengal have emerged as title contenders and are likely to challenge Dempo for the title and which is why this match is of extreme importance for both the clubs. Churchill Brothers Technical Director Subhash Bhowmick is well versed about the playing style of the Red-Gold brigade and the tactical battle between Subhash Bhormick and East-Bengal coach Trevor Morgan is likely to shape this encounter. An high-scoring draw looks the likely outcome with both teams likely to go on the offensive right from the start though Churchill’s defensive unit gives them a slight edge.
Dempo Relying on Indian Players
Dempo Sports Club triumphed over Shillong Lajong 4-1 at home despite playing most of the match with 1 foreign player. Koko Sakibo has been ruled out due to a rib fracture while Stephen Ofei is still settling down, which leaves Dempo with only two players – Rohan Ricketts and Ryuji Sueoka. Dempo however have a great bunch of Indian players which should see them through against ONGC in the capital. Coach Armando Colaco is reaping the benefit of long-term planning which has seen him retain the set of Indian players. Players like Joachim Abranches, Godwin Franco and Rowilson Rodriguez can be seen in action in this match.
Prayag Look to Continue Momentum as Arrows Look to Regroup
After thrashing United Sikkim by 10-1 , Prayag United under new coach Eelco Schattorie would look to carry forward this momentum. Ranti Martins and Carlos Hernandez are in red-hot form at the moment and will no doubt be looking to exploit the young but inexperienced Arrows defense. Things have changed thick and fast in the Prayag camp and there are a lot of expectations form the club after the appointment of the Dutch coach. Midfield trio of C.K. Vineeth, K. Asif and Shylo Malswamtulunga have been consistently exceptional and are knocking on the national team door-steps.
Arrows have had a slight dip in form after their exceptional start to the tournament losing to Pune FC 2-0. Also 10 of the Arrows players were fined by the AIFF for disciplinary reasons. The Arthur Papas coached side needs to be get its act together in this competitive league and any slip in concentration could see them get trashed by this Prayag side. The Arrows striking duo of Alwyn George and Holicharan Narzary also needs to be more clinical in front of goal to utilize chances that come their way.
United Sikkim play Sporting club as Bhutia is Appointed Coach, Mumbai host Shillong
United Sikkim, Sporting Club de Goa and Mumbai FC have emerged as early relegation contenders while Shillong Lajong find themselves in the seventh position. A win here for either of the clubs would go a long way in stabilizing their position in the league.
United Sikkim were given a stern reality check by Prayag United and after 4 home matches on the trot , tougher tests await them in away matches .The 10-1 loss to Prayag resulted in the re-designation of Philip-De-Ridder as the Football Director. It will take a lot of character from the new boys of I-League to bounce back but Baichung Bhutia’s appointment as the interim coach would definitely boost their morale.
They face Sporting Club de Goa who are struggling themselves with injuries to key players and an unsettled group of foreign players. Dawson Fernandes and Victorino Fernandes have been the two positives so far for Sporting and would look to continue their impressive form. Sporting have roped in fresh set of foreign players which includes Anorue Obiora, the Nigerian striker who is expected to play along with Japanese Seiya Sugishita in this match.
Shillong Lajong’ s match against Mumbai FC pips two of the former Mumbai FC players- Ebi Sukore and Friday Gbeneme against their old club. Mumbai completed a amazing comeback against Sporting in the last match to win their first match of the season while Shillong Lajong suffered a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Dempo. Justin Stephen and Amiri will be the key men for Mumbai while Lajong would rely on the Sukore-Friday duo.
Pune FC Clash with Air-India
Pune FC clash with Air-India in a match that has provided a lot of drama in past. However, a weakened Air India after the departure of key players should not pose a lot of challenge for the Red Lizards who are slowly climbing their way up the table. James Moga upfront along with Arata Izumi and Daisuke Nishiguchi in the midfield are a handful for any side and would be the key for Pune FC going into this match. Air India coach Godfrey Pereira is expected to be back after missing the match against East Bengal due to issues regarding his contract while the club is also believed to be close to signing an Asian player.
Key Tactical Battles To Look Forward To This Round
1) Lenny Rodriguez and Beto vs Mehtab Hossain and Penn Orji
This midfield battle is the key to the outcome of this highly anticipated clash. Both pairs of players have played a key role in their side’s campaign this season and are likely to clash quite a few time in this match. Lenny and Mehtab play alongside each other in the national team while Beto and Penn are I-League veterans which makes this clash an exciting battle of tactical creativity and mental strength .
2) Ranti Martins and Carlos Hernandez vs Pailan Arrows Defenders
The duo of Ranti Martins and Carlos Hernandez is turning out to be a successful one for Prayag United with Ranti scoring 5 and Carlos 2 against United Sikkim. The duo will again hold the key to Prayag’s fortune in this where they will be up against the young but skilled Arrows defenders – Pritam Kotal, Deepak Devrani and Shouvik Ghosh. Arrows defenders need to be on the top of their game to stop the Prayag duo
3) Odafa Okolie vs Luciano Sabrosa
The battle between the two skippers promises to be an intriguing one. When Bagan depend on Odafa for goals , Luciano leads the Salgaocar defense which is not known for conceding a lot of goals. Both the teams will look for inspired performance from their skippers in order to tilt the match in their favor.
4) Arata Izumi and Daisuke Nishiguchi vs Micky Fernandez and Pradeep Mohanraj
The Maharashtra derby could well be decided by this duel between Arata Izumi and Daisuke Nishiguchi of Pune FC and Micky Fernandez and Pradeep Mohanraj of Air-India. The Japanese duo have been at the heart of most of the Pune FC moves while Pradeep Mohanraj is knocking on the national team doorsteps while Micky is a talented player and also a dead-ball specialist. It promises to be an exciting battle.
Fixtures and Predictions
16th November : ONGC FC vs Dempo SC (Prediction : 0-2)
17th November : Churchill Brothers vs East Bengal (Prediction : 2-2)
17th November : Mumbai FC vs Shillong Lajong (Prediction : 1-2)
17th November : Mohun Bagan vs Salgaocar FC (Prediction : 1-1)
18th November : Sporting Club de Goa vs United Sikkim (Prediction : 2-1)
18th November : Pailan Arrows vs Prayag United (Prediction : 1-3)
18th November : Pune FC vs Air-India (Prediction: 3-1)
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