The 127th season of the Durand Cup, the oldest football tournament in the country and the third oldest football tournament in the world, will start from the last week of October. The Qualifiers started from 20th of October and Vasco , Laxmi Prasad SC and SESA have made their way into the Quarter-Final stage of the competition . Mohammedan are the current holders, having beaten ONGC 2-1 in the 2013 Final .Kolkata Giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are the most successful club in the Durand Cup , both of them having won it 16 times .But both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will not be taking part in this years competition. All matches of the tournament will be held in Goa. TheHardTackle profiles the teams in Group B, looking at their strengths and weaknesses, and previews the likely outcome.
The 2012 Durand Cup Champions will be looking forward to a repeat of their heroics , but failing to garner a single point in the 2013 Durand Cup and finishing 3rd in their group , Air India will be hoping they can salvage their lost pride in this years competition. , Air India are best known for nurturing youngsters into big time players and Midfielder Johny Singh , who is only 21 is the new starlet coming out from the club. The midfielder was a part of Air India’s disastrous run , in the Durand Cup last year and will be hopeful the club can put in a better show this time round.Striker A.Sudeesh was the top scorer for Air India in the Durand Cup , last term and he will be hopeful his goals will help Air India get out from the group stages this time. Air India let in 6 goals in the last year’s Durand Cup and the coach will be keen not to repeat last year’s mistakes.
Key Players :- A.Sudeesh , Johny Singh and Prem Kumar.
SPORTING CLUBE DE GOA :
Sporting finished the 2013-14 I-League strongly, finishing in 5th position . Sporting finished with 34 points having scored 34 goals and concede 34 goals in the 2013-14 league season .Boima Karpeh was the top scorer for the Goa’n club with 11 goals and the Australian will be looking forward to make his mark in this years Durand Cup. Trinidad and Tobago national team player and 2006 world cupper Anthony Wolfe will also play a vital part in Sporting’s quest for success , the midfielder is known for his goalscoring record and has already played in India for Churchil Brothers. They also have experienced Spanish Centre Back Pablo Gallardo in their ranks , who will play a crucial part in their defence. Manager Oscar Bruzon, who has been with the club for 2 years will be looking to fix his sides defensive problems as they go into the 2014 Durand Cup with a lot of expectations , especially as they will be playing on home soil .
Key Players :- Boima Karpeh and Anthony Wolfe.
UNITED SPORTING CLUB :
The 2010 champions and the 2011 runners up of the Durand Cup , put in a solid performance in the 2013-14 I-League .But with many top players leaving the club and the club having failed to find a new sponsor for the upcoming season , the club is literally in turmoil .Coach Ananta Kumar Ghosh will hope that their teams performance doesn’t get affected by the controversy surrounding the club at the moment .Club captain Deepak Mandal has signed for Kingfisher East Bengal and is currently playing with Mumbai City FC in the ongoing Indian Super league. They will also miss the services of midfielder Asif Kottayil , who is also currently playing for Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League. . It will be a massive loss for the club to replace such an experienced defender .The Club will be looking to extend their recent impressive displayes in the Durand Cup in the 2010 and 2011 season. They have not participated in the last 2 years in this competition and will be looking to make a mark in the competition in which they announced their arrival in Indian Football , but it wont be an easy task going on against a organised Sporting side who will be full of confidence and palying in their own state will be a tough nut to crack .Eric Brown the USA Midfielder has also joined Pune FC and the club will have to fill up the hole in midfield.
Key Players:- Jayanta Sen and Sangram Mukherjee.
The race for the top spot is likely to go down to the wire but Sporting Clube De Goa appear to have the edge playing on home soil and may go on to top the group. United Sports Club are likely to miss their best players of last season and are in middle of a crisis at the moment and Air India will be lucky to salvage a point this year, with them lacking proper match fitness, giving Sporting an edge. Sporting know this is their best chance to lift their first trophy playing on home soil and will be motivated to raise their levels.