The 34th edition of the coveted Federation Cup began yesterday in Jamshedpur, kick starting the football season in India. On the first day, five-time national champions Dempo were held to a draw by the AIFF developmental team Pailan Arrows in the first game, followed by Shillong Lajong clinching all three points against Mumbai FC in the Group A. A place in Asia’s second tier competition – AFC Cup is up for grabs as defending champions Salgaocar take on the likes of Pune FC, big spenders Prayag United and laborious United Sikkim FC in Group D.
Seven-time champions East Bengal are placed in Group C along with local rivals Kalighat Milan Sangha FC, Mumbai based ONGC FC and Goan side Sporting Club de Goa. The matches for Group C will be played in Siliguri. TheHardTackle takes a look at their respective squads for the tournament, gives a quick report and profiles each team’s pros and cons.
East Bengal FC
Trevor Morgan’s side will be planning to repeat the performance of the last three editions of the Fed cup, as the Kolkata side managed to reach the finals three consecutive times. Trevor Morgan won the 2010 edition, but his side was out done by Salgaocar in the final hurdle last year. The Lal-Holud brigade will once again start as overwhelming favourites to win this group, especially with the squad the club administration has assimilated over the transfer window.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Abhijit Mondal
Defenders: Naoba Singh, Gurwinder Singh, Uga Okpara, Arnab Mondal, Raju Gaikwad, Saumik Dey, Robert Lalthlamuana
Midfielders: Sanju Pradhan(C), Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Subodh Kumar, Mehtab Hossain, Penn Ikechukwu Orji, Ishfaq Ahmed, Lalrindika Ralte
Forwards: Edeh Chidi, Baljit Singh Sahni, Manandeep Singh, Seminlen Doungel
Former national champions. East Bengal will be looking to begin their campaign with a win over their toughest rivals in the group, Sporting Clube tomorrow. Trevor Morgan is expected to deploy his usual diamond formation in the middle, where Penn Orji will play just behind the strikers, having Ralte on the left and captain Sanju on the right. Mehtab Hossain, after his wonderful performance in the national colours is expected to pick up his usual role of shielding the back four. It is yet to be seen that whether Chidi Edeh could fill the void left by the charismatic Tolgey Ozbey, as he prepares to sync up with Robin and Manandeep up front. The experience of former JCT man Baljit Sahni will also be crucial for the Red-&-Gold brigade.
Sporting Club de Goa
Mentored by Manipuri coach Ekendra Singh, Sporting Club de Goa managed to not only stay afloat last season in the I-league, but also finish in the top ten. Sporting have never won this competition before and will be looking to make an impact this time around. The Flaming Oranje had a disappointing Durand Cup earlier this season, where the Goan outfit was not able to clear the hurdle of the group stages.
Goalkeepers: L. Ashok Singh, Agnelo Gomes
Defenders: Mathew Gonsalves, Boubacar Keita, Adil Ahmed Khan, N. Samananda Singh, Rovan Pereira, SingamRojen Singh, Joyner Lourenco, Jovel Martins
Midfielders: LairenjamBisheshwor Singh, OgbaKaluNnanna, Joseph Pereira, MackroyPeixoto, Rowlinn Borges, PrateshShirodkar, VelitoD’Cruz
Forwards: Bertrand BenikTequwa Bong, Dawson Fernandes, VictorinoFernandes
Ekendra Singh is expected to go with 4-3-2-1 with the new Cameroonian recruit Bong playing as a lone striker up front. Gerard D’Mello is expected to start as the custodian for most of the matches with Samananda and Kieta guarding the defence line. Adil Khan and Rovan will be switching with Peixoto and JovelMartins on the left and right flank respectively. OgbaKalu will be man to watch out from the starting eleven as he will be looking orchestrate moves from the middle of the park. New recruits Pratesh Shirodkar, who was roped in SESA Academy, and Amandeep Singh from JCT could start in the mid field.
The Mumbai based club start their campaign on Friday against Kalighat MS. The collaboration of BibekBhowmick and Coach Subrata Bhattacharya has done wonders for the side since the side’s relegation from the premium tier of Indian football two seasons ago. ONGC has bounced back, right into the mix with securing a spot in this year’s I-league. ONGC finished last in their group in the recently-concluded Durand Cup. The institutional has not gone a spending spree, with respect to many sides taking part in the competition, but what ONGC has is the confidence and a shrewdly assimilated squad.
Coach Subrata Bhattacharya is expected to start with Prasanjit Ghosh under the bars. New foreign recruit Oneyama Eke will be starting as a lone striker up front with Japanese Katsumi Yusa linking up the play in the midfield. Newly roped in youngsters David Lalrinuamana, F. Lalmuan Puia and Surabuddin Mollik will be expected to start in the midfield.
Kalighat MS FC
The Kolkata based side which was incepted before the Independence has finally arrived on the national stage. Kalighat MS was shown a green signal by the AIFF in order to participate in the second tier of football in India. Kalighat impressed everyone when they qualified for Fed Cup after convincingly thrashing Royal Wahigdoh and Vasco SC.
Kalighat scored an impressive ten goals and conceded only a single one. The side will be bubbling with energy and zest to prove appoint in their maiden performance in Siliguri as they lock horns against ONGC at the Kanchenjunga Stadium.
1. East Bengal FC
2. Kalighat MS FC
3. Sporting Club de Goa
4. ONGC FC
East Bengal will clearly start as the favorites to top the group if they manage to get past Sporting Club de Goa in the opening match on a rugged pitch at Siliguri tomorrow. Kalighat MS might raise a few eyebrows and clinch the second spot with Sporting left at third. ONGC FC rely too heavily on some of the individual performances, hence they could finish the group matches at rock bottom of the table.