Fatorda Stadium, Goa
11th March , 2014
When the defending league champions of two SAFF Nations locks horns with each other in a continental competition, the stakes will be very high. Defending I-League and Federation Cup champions Churchill Brothers will be trying to prove that their success wasn’t fluke and is engaged in a fight to keep their status and image intact. The kings of Maldives club football, New Radiant SC are hoping to take the game to their big counterparts in all ways possible, irrespective of the adversities faced by the club. These teams had their countries (SAFF) best strikers playing in their colours last season. Sunil Chettri and Ali Ashfaq have bid adieu since then and the clubs are reaping the rewards of their good efforts.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Churchill Brothers’ involvement in the relegation dog fight of I-League means that, they won’t be in a position to give their best efforts in AFC Cup 2014. But the Goan team has to make sure that there is no harm done to their reputation and image. Home matches are very crucial in AFC Cup group stages. The management and fans will be counting on this opportunity as a chance to add 3 points to their kitty. Churchill Brothers team is in a win-less streak of 4 games after an unbeaten run of 9 games.
I-League champions will be hoping that they can get back on track even though there are few injury worries including top scorer Balwant Singh, reliable custodian Lalit Thapa and wide man Saran Singh, ruled out of this fixture. The absence of Balwant and Thapa will be a headache for Coach Mariano Dias as both were putting up consistently good performances week in and out.
The absence of Lalit Thapa means that Arindam Bhattacharya will be called upon to guard the goal posts. The back four picks themselves despite the team conceding 7 goals in their last 3 outings. Denzil Franco and Raju Yumnam are expected to start as wing backs and it will be interesting to see whether they takes the game to opposition box. The heart of the defence will be formed by Dharmraj Ravanan and Daniel Zeleny.
In midfield Lenny Rodriguez and Abdelhamid Shabana are expected to pull the strings. They will be flanked by Bineesh Balan and rising star Alesh Sawant. Jaison Vales is expected to get a look in the latter part of the game. The absence of Saran Singh won’t be a big a factor if Bineesh, Alesh or Jaison can dazzle their way past opposition defenders on the flanks. Upfront Anthony Wolfe will have to spearhead the attack and he will be partnered with Christian Lagos. Balwant Singh has been a regular outlet for goals in this campaign and it remains to be seen if others can step up in his absence.
Expected Starting XI: Arindam Bhattacharya; Denzil Franco, Daniell Zeleny, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Raju Yumnam;Bineesh Balan, Lenny Rodrigues, Abdelhameed Shabana, Alesh Sawant; Anthony Wolfe, Cristian Lagos.
The Maldives club is lacking match fitness and are not in an ideal situation as they make their trip to India. Due to preparations for AFC Challenge Cup 2014, Maldives League (Dhivehi League) has been postponed and there is no competitive action taking place back in the island nation. Infact their only recent match was in the AFC Cup Group match against Home United. New Radiant’s Spanish head coach Angel Perez Garcia parted ways with the club recently and caretaker coach Ismail Anil is handling the affairs. Due to the lack of league action, there are no foreign players available with The Blues as well. New Radiant are yet to replace their prolific goalscorer and skipper Ali Ashfaq, and it will be interesting to how they will put the ball into the back of the net in his absence.
Maldives International players Akram Abdulla Gani and Mohammed Umar are also carrying injuries which further weakens the visiting team. In the absence of Umar, veteran striker Ibrahim Fazeel will be carrying the weight of expectations on his shoulders alone. Will he be able to carry the team on his capable feets? Time will tell.
Goalkeeper and skipper Imran Mohammed will have to perform out of his skin to get something out of this game. Injuries and the absence of foreign players are expected to have a crucial impact on New Radiant’s performance. They are expected to line-up in a 4-5-1 formation with the hope of getting a point back from India. Visitors’ fighting spirit and organization helped them to a favourable result in their group opener earlier. It will be interesting to see how this match pans out.
Expected Starting XI: Imran Mohammed; Ahmed Abdulla, Ahmed Shafiu, Mohammed Sifan, Mohammed Rasheed; Mukhuthar Nasser, Akram Abdulla Gani, Ahmed Niyaz, Ali Fasir, Shamweel Gasim; Ibrahim Faseel.
Players To Watch Out For
Lenny Rodriguez (Churchill Brothers)
When the opposition fields 3 players in the middle of the park, the going will get tougher for Churchill Brothers double pivot. Skipper Lenny Rodriguez needs to be on his toes if Churchill Brothers are to get a strength hold in the game. He needs to be quick on his feet as well as on thinking, as the onus will be on him to break the opposition play and to dictate the hosts proceedings. The double role entrusted with defensive and attacking duties needs a lot of stamina and energy and an error less game is expected from the skipper.
Imran Mohammed (New Radiant)
Maldives goalkeeper usually creates a big obstacle for the opposition and his performances will be vital for the visitors yet again. In their last outing, Imran had kept a clean sheet and his organization of defence was one of the key reasons behind the success. If he can command his box in Goa, then the foreign pairing of Churchill Attackers might find it difficult to break the deadlock.
Churchill Brothers 1 – 0 New Radiant
Churchill Brothers’ main goal threat is missing in the game and it remains to be seen how their foreigners will combine upfront. New Radiant on the other hand relies a lot on their organization and discipline which helped them to grind out a result last time around. The match is evenly poised at the moment and it might be a moment of genius or inspiration which will have the last laugh at Fatorda Stadium. TheHardTackle predicts Churchill Brothers to produce a moment of magic to sneak a 1-0 win on match day 2 in AFC Cup 2014.