The 2013/14 season of I-League has been nothing short of a blockbuster movie so far with surprises and thrills that have caught the imagination of media and fans across the nation. Round 8 saw Pune FC relinquish their unbeaten start while Churchill Brothers and Rangdajied remain the only teams not to have won a match. Round 9 sees a fascinating set of matches with Dempo clashing with Churchill while Pune FC hosting Bengaluru FC.

Dempo And Churchill Clash In a Potential Six-Pointer Derby

Dempo – Churchill clashes are usually the clash of the table toppers but this time around both the Goan giants have been struggling to find their feet. Dempo have managed 1 win from 7 matches and are in 10th position while Churchill Brothers are still win less and find themselves with 3 points from the same number of matches and are perched at 12th spot.  A win here could go a long way in reviving the season for the winner.

Dempo seemed to have found their rhythm with a 3-1 win over East Bengal but a loss to Bengaluru and a draw at home to Mohun Bagan have put a halt on their rhythm. Arthur Papas is yet to find his best 11 and has changed his squad frequently with all four Arrows players playing a part in the draw against Mohun Bagan. The foreign players in the team are yet to settle down and Billy Mehmet in particular has been guilty of missing easy chances. The rumors of rift between Papas and some senior members of the team has not helped the team’s cause.

Churchill Brothers on the other hand find themselves in mess as well with Sukhwinder Singh resigning due to team’s poor performances. Subhash Bhormick has taken over the team but the team looks a pale shadow of the team which won the I-League last team. Frequent changes in the coaching staff as well as the foreign players have not allowed the team to settle down and the team has been found wanting in all departments. Hugo Machado has been an exceptional performer though and all eyes will be on the Portuguese in this match.

New Foreign Players On Display

Matthew Foschini

Matthew Foschini

Needless to say foreign players play an important part in a team’ s fortunes as has been highlighted by the performances of Pune FC and Bengaluru FC and in past couple of weeks several I-League teams have completed their foreign quota of players. Financially struggling United Sports Club have signed Syrian central midfielder Hasan Al Moustafa who came on as a substitute in the match against Churchill Brothers. Hasan who can also play as a defender adds much needed steel to the United Sports club.

After failing to sign Yusif Yakabu and disappointed with the performances of Orok Essien Mumbai FC signed striker Hashmatullah Barikzai and midfielder Ahmad Hatifie to complete an all Afghan foreign quota after they had signed Sandjar Ahmadi earlier. Barikzai who scored twice in the SAFF Championship had a dream debut as he scored against Bengaluru FC. Despite remaining under the radar for most of the transfer season, Mumbai FC have made a intelligent move by signing the duo.

Lastly table toppers Salgaocar strengthened their team by signing 23 year old Australian U-23 international Matthew Foschini to complete their foreign quota. The defensive midfielder can play in multiple positions and brings with him the valuable experience of playing with Melbourne Victory in the A-League and is an impressive signing by Salgaocar.

Former Bolton and Dutch junior striker Mustapha Riga  has been roped in by Pune FC in place of injured Raul Fabiani and the striker made his debut in 2-0 loss to Sporting Club de Goa.

Can East Bengal get their I-League campaign back on track

Continental high-flyers East Bengal have not made a satisfactory start to their I-League campaign and have lost two of their four matches so far and most importantly the losses have come at home. The fans have begun to get frustrated with Falopa’ s approach and the frequent comparisons with Trevor Morgan have not helped Brazilian’s cause either. Falopa needs to get his tactics right as well on the field as well with both Chidi Edeh and James Moga failing to combine upfront with the former being too slow. With Ryuiji Sueoka missing, the Lal-Hould also lacks a creative play maker in the team. East Bengal desperately need a win and a loss here will only compound troubles for Falopa and his boys.

Oscar Bruzon

Oscar Bruzon

Their opponents in the round 9 – Sporting Club de Goa come into the match in a rich vein of form having ended Pune FC ‘s unbeaten streak in the last match. Spanish coach Oscar Bruzon has turned the low budget side into a force to reckon with and the Flaming Oranje have recorded some impressive away wins and would be eyeing another away win. Boima Karpeh is all set to return to the team after missing the last match due to an injury while Spanish midfielder Arturo Navarro Garcia who picked the man of the match award in the last match will lead the Sporting midfield. Sporting haven’t been over-reliant on any players – a high point of their campaign so far and the Indian players in team have stepped up whenever needed.

Pune, Bengaluru Meet In Clash Of Neutral Favorites

Fan Favorites Pune FC and Bengaluru FC clash when Pune FC host Bengaluru FC at Balewadi Sports Complex in a match which pits the tactical acumen of Mike Snoei against Ashley Westwood. Both teams have similar styles in a lot of aspects. While Pune rely on Calum Angus to marshal defense and move ahead, Englishman John Johnson plays the similar role for Bengaluru. Both stalwarts have been among the goals as well. Bengauluru rely on Malemngamba Meetei and Beikhokhei Beingaichho for providing width down the flank while for Pune the highly rated Nikhil Kadam and Aussie James Meyer provide the options on the flank. It will be interesting to see how Pune FC cope up without Angus and Mayer should the duo miss out due to injuries.

A lot of fascinating individual battles will hold the key to this match between the two most professionally managed clubs in I-League. Sunil Chhetri and Sean Rooney will be up against Anas Edathodika , the best defender in the country while in the opposite end former Bolton striker Mustapha Riga  will clash with John Johnson. It is however the battle between Johnny Menyongar and Douhou Pierre which could decide which way the match will swing. Pune FC will look to get back to winning ways after getting off the track in the 2-0 loss to Sporting Club in the last match while Bengaluru who have not been fully convincing in the away matches will look to take a point from this games. Some of the most promising young talents in Indian Football are also on display in the match – Meetei, Hangal and Beikhokhei from Bengaluru and Nikhil Kadam, Haokip and Dhanpal Ganeshan from Pune.

Mid Table Battles Hold The Key

Ram Malik [c] mohunbaganac[.]com

Ram Malik

Four Mid table teams (ranked from 6th to 9th) battle it out among themselves in this round as Shillong Lajong host Bagan and Mumbai clash with Mohammedan. Despite a slow start Bagan have struck form with wins over Salgaocar and Mumbai FC and they face a Lajong side who have been far from convincing  at home despite looking strong in the away matches. Bagan will miss the services of Eric Murunda in this match while all eyes will be on the young trio of  Pritam Kotal, Ram Malik and Manish Bhargav. Bencherifa it seems has finally managed to get the best out of this young Bagan side and would be eyeing full three points in this game. The hosts on the other hand will be without their inspirational striker Cornell Glen who is sidelined with an injury. A win here for the home side could see them break into the top 5.

Mumbai FC host Mohammedan Sporting and with both team locked at seven points , there is all to play for. The influx of IMG Reliance players has certainly strengthened Mohammedan squad and with Josimar back to form, the Black Panthers seem confident going forward. Mumabi FC on the other hand will rely on their all Afghan foreign players to steer them to victory. Climax Lawrence and Nicholas Rodriguez have been exceptional in the midfield. The Essel based side has lost way after a good start with home loses to Shillong Lajong and Mohun Bagan and would be eager to get back to winning ways.

I-League Round 9 Fixtures

05.11.2013: Sporting Club de Goa vs East Bengal
05.11.2013: Rangdajied United vs Salgaocar
06.11.2013: Shillong Lajong vs Mohun Bagan
06.11.2013: Mumbai FC vs Mohammedan Sporting
06.11.2013: Pune FC vs Bengaluru FC
06.11.2013: Dempo vs Churchill Brothers