As we move on to Match 15 of the Indian Super League (ISL), the table seems to be developing a definitive pattern to it, with the likes of FC Pune City, Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) and FC Goa scaling the heights.
However, it is still too early to say who will qualify for the semsi finals, and Sundaya s clash between Kerala Balsters and Delhi Dynamos, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi, Kerala, could go a long way in deciding one (if not more) of the qualifiers.
Both Kerala Blasters and Delhi Dynamos are waiting on the fringes of the top-four positions on the table, and would be looking to win this match, in order to leapfrog into a semi final spot.
The Kerala Blasters have experienced a bit of a steady decline in the first three matchs of their ISL-2 campaign, winning emphatically against North East United FC, playing out a goalless draw afainst Mumbai City FC, and then losing to defending champions ATK.
However, the Kochi-based side, who were the runners-up, in the inaugural season of the ISL, last year, know they have the potential to do better, and in front of a 61,000-strong crowd, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, they might just find the impetus to swipe Delhi out of their way.
However, the Balsters would have to do without veteran midfielder Mehtab Hossain, who was sent off after receiving a second booking, at Kolkata, in their last match. This could further affect the Kerala Backline, that has already looked quite shaky against a potent ATK attack.
Coach Peter Taylor may not be too worried about this though, as his side would definitely be boosted by the return of Sandesh Jhingan, in defence. The 2014 Emerging Player of the Season has been one of their best players in the defence, and is sure to shore-up Kerala Blasters Backline, that faces threat from a potent Dynamos attack, with the likes of Gustavo dos Santos, Robin Singh, and Florent Malouda.
a I think Delhi have made some good signings. Big names like Malouda and (John Arne) Riise, Ia ve seen them in England and theya re amazing players,a said Kerala Blasters coach Peter Taylor. a But wea re entering the field with an apt amount of respect and we dona t intend to show them the ball, we are very capable of being a good team and cover the grass.a
On the flip side, the Delhi Dynamos have made a good comeback, by defeating tough sides like Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City, after an innitial loss to FC Goa. A win would definitely take them to the second spot on the table. They even have a chnace of going to the top, if they win by four goals (however unlikely that may seem).
Delhi certainly have a potent enough attack (on paper at least), to go forward and get the goals, with the likes of Robin, Malouda, Dos Santos, and Hans Mulder. The latter is one of the keys players for the side, as he provides crucial cover for Anas Edthodika and John Arne Riise, in defence.
Also, if things get a bit out of hand, Delhi Dynamos may even turn to their marquee plaer-cum-coach Roberto Carlos. The iconic World Cup winning Brazilian takled about the chances of taking to the field himself, ahead of this crucial clash.
He said, a I am ready if the need arises, I will play. Every game is very difficult and Ia m already happy with the work of the players.a
When asked about the pressure of playing away from home, in front of a 61,000-strong crowd, Carlos did not seem as bothered by the prospect, and said that he has told his players how to deal with such situations.
a Ia ve been speaking to all the players about how to handle big crowds. Most important thing is fighting and to stay motivated,a . said Carlos. a I used to love playing in huge stadiums, it would make me crazy to win the game with 61,000 people having fun, celebrating.a
This tie could prove to be a crucial one, as whatever be the outcome, one of these teams is set to enter the top-four in the table, with Chennaiyin dropping down, and if the Delhi Dynamos can really notch-up a four-goal win, we could even see a second table-topper, in as many days.