Tampines Rovers FC
Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016. 1900 IST
With the Asian continental season about to kick off, Singaporean side Tampine Rovers FC travel to Kolkata, India, to face one of the biggest team in the country — Mohun Bagan AC.
This is a one-off qualifier, and would be decided on extra time, or even penalties, if the two teams are still deadlocked at the end of regulation time. Being the first of three tough rounds of qualifying, this match would prove to be a real acid test for both the sides, as they look to test themselves against the best of opposition. Both Sanjoy Sen and Varadaraju Sundramoorthy would be cautious as their opponents are more than capable of mounting the attacks and getting the crucial goals.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Mohun Bagan AC
The home side has lost some of it’s key players from last year’s title-winning squad, but manager Sanjoy Sen has been clever enough to make certain additions that has helped his team look as strong as ever. The Mariners are coming out of a draining derby against arch-rivals East Bengal FC, and are at a stage where they have to play three matches in the space of eight days.
However, the Mohun Bagan squad looks like it has depth to deal with such situations, and Sen would be thanking his stars that he has a big squad, as some of his players are still recovering from the grueling derby. Regular starters like Balwant Singh and Dhanachandra Singh are doubtful for the match, with the coach saying that he will take a decision on them on the morning of the game. Debjit Majumder has been solid behind a rather shaky defence, and certainly seems to be a better prospect than club captain Shilton Paul, at the moment, as he also adds the factor of having good organizational skills.
Defence is one area where Mohun Bagan have seemed to be a bit weak, conceding four goals in the opening three games of the season. However, that seems to be a case of the centreback pairing of Kingshuk Debnath and Luciano Sabrosa not having played enough games together. Such problems can only get better as they play more and more games. Dhanachandra Singh was said to have been reeling from a knock he received in the East Bengal match, but is expected to start, in order to trouble the Tampines defence with his free-kick-like long throws, and overlapping runs from the left flank. Pritam Kotal, the other fullback was turned completely inside out Bikash Jairu of East Bengal, and needs to clean up his act before Sen drops him from the starting XI.
Pronay Halder is yet another doubtful case, with the Mariners, and may start the game on the bench. However, Sen has Halder’s absence in midfield well covered, as he can easily play vice-captain Katsumi Yusa in the centre of the park. In such a case, Kean Lewis, who impressed in the first match, can be deployed on the right wing, while Sony Norde weaves his usual Haitian magic from the left side. Sen has been playing the 4-4-2 consistently, and Trinidad & Tobago striker Cornell Glen is a sure starter in a match of this importance. His striker partner Balwant Singh is also doubtful for the game, and we could very well see India international Jeje Lalpekhlu getting his first start of the season, in Mohun Bagan colours.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Debjit; Dhana, Luciano, Kingshuk, Kotal; Sony, Katsumi, Souvik, Kean; Jeje, Glen.
Sanjoy Sen: “What matters is how we play in the match, because this is not just a club, this is a matter of our national identity, and this [win] can make us all the more proud.”
Tampines Rovers FC
The Tampines Rovers have had a frustrating couple of seasons, and were unable to win the S. League in spite of having a top team on paper. Due to this, chairman Krishnas Ramachandra has decided to give manager Sundramoorthy a completely revamped squad to work with this season. However, as Sundramoorthy himself conceded, his team are still in the pre season phase, and they are still trying to get together as a team.
As a mark of their newfound ambition, the Stags have gone on to sign former Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC winger Jermaine Pennant, who would be a huge boost to the side. Unfortunately however, the English star would be unavailable for this crucial AFC Champions League qualifier, as Tampines Rovers could not get his name registered with AFC in time. However, the Stags are still quite a strong outfit, as they have managed to rope in S. League last season’s top scorer Fazrul Nawaz, and midfielder Yasir Hanpi from Warriors FC and Geylang International (respectively). These are the extremely experienced players, and Sundramoorthy has even announced Fazrul as his captain for the game against Mohun Bagan.
Sundramoorthy likes to play the 4-2-3-1 formation with his side, and this may result in them outnumbering the hosts in the midfield, and keeping majority of the possession. Helping the Stags win the majority of the battle are Jufri Taha and Hanpi, who for the midfield pivots, while Shahdon Sulaiman plays in a bit more advanced role, as the no. 10.
Sulaiman is expected to be flanked by Hafiz Sujad and Jordan Webb, both of whom are expected to thread passes and crosses through to striker Fazrul. At the back, Izwan Mahbud is expected to take up his position in goal, with Afi Yunes and Kwon Jun playing as centrebacks, while Shakir Hamzah and Ismadi Mukhtar will operate as the two fullbacks. This looks like a really good side on paper, but Sundramoorthy’s main problem, as he himself has reiterated, is that his team are still at the pre-season mode, and need to play more games together, to gel well.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Mahbud; Mukhtar, Kwon, Yunes, Hamzah; Hanpi, Taha; Jordan, Sulaiman, Sujad; Fazrul.
Varadaraju Sundramoorthy: “We have not much games under our belt. This is a new season. We are just starting, and the defence and the goalkeepers need a bit of gelling, which is natural when it comes to a new team. I’m happy that we’re playing a big game here. it’ll be good exposure for the boys.”
Player to watch out for
Katsumi Yusa (Mohun Bagan AC)
The Japanese midfielder can perform different roles, both on the wing and in the centre, and is an important cog in Se’s well-oiled machinery. With Pronay Halder doubtful for this game, Sen might have to slot Katsumi into the middle of the park, as he has often done in the second half of Mohun Bagan’s recent games. The Japanese would play a very important role in creating chances on the counter, for Cornell Glen.
Mohun Bagan AC 0-1 Tampines Rovers FC
The Mariners coach has reiterated the face that Tampines Rovers are a relatively unknown quantity, since they’ve had an overhaul of their squad. Thus, we can expect quite a cagey match, and one goal might be all it takes to win this match. Striker Fazrul might just be the one win it for the Stags.
Then, think buying paper how it could be transformed into the worst scenario for him or her