IFA Shield 2014 Preview : Mohun Bagan, East Bengal To Face Stiff Challenge From Three Foreign Clubs

Defending Champions United SC

Defending Champions United SC

The 118th edition of IFA Shield kicks off with eight teams vying for the coveted trophy. The HardTackle analysis the strength and weakness of the teams and predicts the possible permutation and combinations. Let’s find out which team will be four likely teams to make it in semifinal stage.

This edition of IFA shield has attracted only three foreign teams and lost a bit of spark after Goan clubs and Shillong Lajong refused to take part in it though the participation of big three clubs in Kolkata is a relief for the organizers. The tournament is divided into the two groups. Group A consists of East Bengal, United Sports Club, Singaporean league side Geylang Internatioanl and Korean lower division club Busan Kion Tang. Group B consists of the recently concluded Federation Cup Semi Finalist Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting, and 2nd division outfit United Sikkim and Bangladeshi side Sheikh Jamal.

Group A: East Bengal, United Sports Club, Geylang International, Busan Kion Tang.

East Bengal

East Bengal will be the favourite to win the Group A. The Kolkata giants have experience of playing in AFC Cup and have done well last edition. Playing against the likes of Geylang and Busan will not be a problem if Armando Colaco chooses to field their strongest XI. The Red and Gold brigade will get enough match practice for I-League by playing this competition. Mehtab Hussain is expected to return from the injury and this will be perfect platform for midfielder to get his fitness level back. Armando Colaco will use this tournament to test few players and will hope to win all three group matches.

Players To Watch Out: Mehtab Hussain, Lalrindika Ralte.

United Sports Club

United Sports Club financial crisis is known to all. The purple brigade is failing to rope in the sponsors and off field problems have affected performance of the players. After a promising start to the I-League, the club has gone from bad to worse. There is rumour that Dutch coach Elco Schattorie is back in Oman and may not return. The club even has not started preparation for the tournament. The absence of coach may affect their performance while Ranti Martins is not at his best. It will be difficult for United Sports Club to get through group stages if the Nigerian does not fire.

Players To Watch Out: Eric Brown, Ranti Martins.

Geylang Internatioanl

Geylang International FC

S-League side will be playing first time in IFA Shield. The Singaporean side popularly known as the Eagles in Singapore has experience of playing in continental competitions in the past. They did not have a good season last year as they finished in bottom half of the table. The IFA shield could work as good preparation for them. Geylang has signed a new set of foreign players for the upcoming season. Former Albirex Nigata Singapore defensive pair Yuki Ichikawa and Kenta Furtardo will have to be at their best if Geylang has to entertain the thoughts of reaching knock outs. The Japanese pair did well last season playing for Albirex Nigata helping them finish third in the league standing. The club even has roped in three Argentine players. The striking pair of Leonel Felice and Joaquim Lopez will have the responsibility to pump few goals for the Eagles. They will be getting able support from their fellow countrymen Franco Chivello from the middle. There are few local signings and coach Kanan Vedhamuthu believes that this is perfect for the players to gel well.

Players To Watch Out: Yuki Ichikawa, Kenta Furtardo

Busan Kiong Tang.

Busan Kiong Tang from South Korea is the fourth team in the group. The Korean club plays in the lower divisions in Korea.

Fixtures:

29th January

East Bengal V Busan Kiong Tang, United SC V Geylang Internationals

 1st February

East Bengal V Geylang International, United SC V Busan Kiong Tang

 4th February

East Bengal V United SC, Geylang International V Busan Kiong Tang

Group B: Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting, United Sikkim, Sheikh Jamal.

Mohun Bagan

Mohun Bagan by far looks the strongest team in the group. The club has been in sensational form of late and gave a good account of themselves in the Federation cup. Their Nigerian star striker Odafa is short of match fitness and he will look to help his club perform well. The youngsters in the team have to come good after disappointing performance in Federation Cup semifinal. The last time Mohun Bagan won the tournament was in 2003 and this will be a good opportunity for them to win it as their form has been good since the victory over East Bengal in CFL.

Players To Watch Out: Odafa, Katsumi Yusa

Mohammedan Sporting

The Black Panthers showed some signs of resurgence under the new coach Sanjay Sen. the club did not lose a single match in the Federation Cup, but failed to make it to semis on goal difference. Brazilian striker Josimar is in good form and he will be looking to continue his productive run. The team looked cohesive in midfield. Penn Orji and Anthony Soren will be the key figure in the success of the Black & Whites in the tournament.

Players To Watch Out: Josimar, Penn Orji.

United Sikkim

The 2nd division outfit United Sikkim was a last minute replacement for Shillong Lajong. The club performed poorly in Federation Cup and fans must not expect much from the Snow Lions in the tournament.  The experience of playing against some of the strongest teams in Indian football will help them in 2nd division which will start very soon. James Singh will be a key figure in the team while the youngsters in the team have to give a good account of them in the tournament.

Players To Watch Out: Bhaichung Bhutia, James Singh.

Sheikh Jamal

Sheikh Jamal

Sheikh Jamal Dhanmodi Club is the only foreign club in the group B. The Bangladeshi Side is leading the domestic league at present. The form of the Bangladesh Premier League will certainly help them in the IFA Shield. The Sheikh Jamal will look to perform well and we may see some upsets from them. The club will be heavily banking of Haiti International Sony Norde. The striker was in sensational form last season in his debut season in Bangladesh scoring 15 goals in 30 matches for his former club Sheikh Russel KC. Bangladesh International Mamunul Islam will have to put some good performance and create scoring opportunities for Norde. Shakhwat Hossain Rony is one of the highly rated players in Bangladesh. The striker will have to support Sony Norde upfront. If Sony and Rony combo works, it could be difficult for rival defence.

Players To Watch Out: Sony Norde, Mamunul Islam.

Fixtures:

30th January

Mohun Bagan V Sheikh Jamal, Mohammedan  V United Sikkim

 2nd February

Mohun Bagan V United Sikkim., Mohammedan  V Sheikh Jamal

 5th February

United Sikkim V Sheikh Jamal, Mohun Bagan V Mohammedan