I-League is back and the top 14 clubs across India will battle for supremacy with the sole aim of being crowned the champions of India. The league kicks-off on the 6th of October and for the first time two clubs from the North-East would be featuring. TheHardTackle team of writers to takes part in some crystal gazing and predict how the tournament will pan out this season.
Question 1. Which club will be crowned the Champions of India come 28th April 2013?
Jonathan De Sousa (JS) : Dempo SC. The only team that believes in continuity and plays a brand of football that is pleasing to the eye. However the AFC Cup fixtures may take a toll on the players.
Rahul Bhutani (RB) : To think beyond Dempo may be a crime but with their eyes on AFC Cup, I would put my money on Churchill or Salgaocar who have also put together an impressive squad
Joseph George (JG) : Dempo Sports Club. Dempo have established themselves with their passing football in I-League and they will retain the trophy this year despite competition from East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Salgaocar and Prayag United.
Sachin Madaan (SM) : My money is on Dempo SC. They are bound to face stiff competition from their rivals Salgaocar and Churchill but in my books they are the favorites for the I-league crown for 2012-13 season.
Somnath Sengupta(SS) : Salgaocar. Their foreign contingency seems stronger and in Bencharifa they have a manager with experience.
Kunwar Deep Singh(KDS) : Prayag United.
Question 2. Which two clubs will get the axe things this time around ?
JS: SikkimUnited and ONGC.
RB: ONGC and Mumbai FC.
JG: ONGC and Sporting Clube De Goa.
SM: ONGC and United Sikkim.
SS: United Sikkim and Mumbai FC
KDS: ONGC and United Sikkim.
Question 3. With all the hype surrounding Arthur Papas and the set of U-22 lads, what are expectations from Arrows this season ?
JS: They will finish in the top 10.
RB: Arrows will definitely put in a much better performance and a top 8 finish is likely. They might also spring a few upsets.
JG: They will finish in top 6 and their playing style is going to catch the attention of Football lovers across India.
SM: I can’t see them finishing in the top half of the table. They do possess some talented players in their squad but they will have to dig in deep in order to finish even in the top ten.
SS: They have made remarkable improvement under Papas, as the Fed Cup showed. They can finish in top-8 this season.
KDS: This time around, Arrows would finish outside the drop zone and are expected to clinch victories against some top teams.
Question 4. Prayag have been dubbed as the Manchester City of Indian Football after their heavy spending. Do you think they can achieve silverware this season?
JS: No. Their squad needs to gel well. However a top five finish would be a certainty.
RB: Unlikely, a top 5 finish however looks likely given the sheer quality of players present. The team needs more time to settle down.
JG: Top 4 is a more realistic target. New players will take time to gel to together but they will be in the mix towards the end of season.
SM: They can and will certainly spring up quite a few surprises this time but they still need to gel in together in order to perform as a cohesive unit. I can’t see them lifting any silverware this time around although a top five finish in the I-league looks well within their reach.
SS: There are already problems among the management. Prayag may have bought a lot of players but they don’t have experience of winning a long running league, which will make a difference in the end. They have a good chance in Calcutta League or IFA Shield, but they won’t win I-League.
Question 5. Who will emerge as the golden-boot winner this season – Odafa , Tolgay, Ranty or any new striker signed by the clubs?
RB: James Moga in my opinion. Ranty may not get the same kind of supply he got at Dempo and with Bagan yet to settle down, I would put my money on James Moga of Pune FC.
JG: Ranty Martins will start pumping in goals once he settles down in Kolkata.
SM: Odafa Okolie would be my pick in this department.
Question 6. How will the two big Kolkata clubs fare- East Bengal and Mohun Bagan ?
JS: No I-League victory again
RB: East Bengal have struggled to find a replacement for Tolgay despite the Fed Cup win while Bagan look far from settled . A top 3 finish looks unlikely for either of Kolkata giants
JG: Mohun Bagan was thrown out of Fed cup in the first round itself but might finish in top 5. East Bengal has a more realistic chance of fighting it out for I-League crown.
SM: This could very well be the season when the Goan clubs end up displacing both Bengal clubs from the podium.
SS: Right now East Bengal seems to have a better overall team than Mohun Bagan. They can challenge for the title but its looking difficult for Bagan.
KDS: In the I-league they will finish in the top half of the table.
Question 7. Which Indian striker will score the most goals? Any chances of an Indian player scoring double digit goals after no Indian player could do so last season ?
RB: Jeje Lalpeklua has looked in good form of late and with limited chances to Robin and Manadeep , Jeje looks the likely bet. Alwyn George who thrives in the Arthur Papas mould of game might break the 10 goal barrier as well.
JG: It’s easy to Pick Jeje Lalpukhela. Jeje, Robin and Sabeeth might reach double figures this season.
SM: Robin Singh and Jeje Lalpukhela.
SS: Jeje. He is the only one who can reach double figures.
KDS: Manandeep Singh
Question 8. Young Players to Keep an eye on
JS: Romeo, Alwyn George
RB: Alwyn George, and Denzil Franco
JG: Alwyn George, Milan Singh
SM: Alwyn George of Pailan Arrows and Lenny Rodriguez of Churchill Brothers.
SS: Romeo Fernandez, Lalrinfela
KDS: Manandeep Singh, Alwyn George, Holicharan, Jeje
Question 9. Dark-Horse in the title Race
JS: Pune FC
RB: Pune FC . The top teams will find it tough to get past them
JG: Pailan Arrows
SM: Pune FC
SS: Churchill Brothers
KDS: Pune FC
Question 10. How do you think the two NE Clubs – Shillong Lajong and United Sikkim will fare ?
JS: Lajong will escape relegation, United Sikkim will go down.
RB: Shillong look a lot improved under Desmond Blupin. United Sikkm’s first season might turn out to be topsy-turvy but they should be able to prevent the axe.
JG: Shillong and United Sikkim can avoid relegation but their fight will last till the last few rounds
SM: Both these clubs will finish in the bottom four.
SS: United Sikkim to go down. Lajong will finish in top-10.
KDS: USFC will be relegated, Shillong will have a mediocre season.
Only time will tell how the teams fare but this edition of the I-League promises to be more exciting and thrilling than before. What do you think about our predictions. Do let us know by posting comments. Brace yourself the I-League is back !!