Delhi Dynamos will be looking to overcome a 1-0 deficit when they play host to Kerala Blasters in the second leg of the second semifinal of the Hero Indian Super League 2016.
Kervens Belfort’s stunning goal just beyond the hour mark in the first leg will see Kerala Blasters take a slender 1-0 advantage in the second leg against the Delhi Dynamos.
The first leg of the semifinal was full of half chances and end to end play with both teams playing at a high tempo. Kerala’s home form has been exceptional this season and they arguably deserved to take the spoils in the first leg.
Delhi have been equally ruthless in front of their home fans, and remain the only team in the competition still to taste defeat at their home ground. The stat will not only bring confidence among the Dynamos, but could also add pressure on the backs of the Kerala players.
It will be an ideal game for the neutral as both times will go into the contest with everything to play for.
Team News and Tactical Brief
This season has been a colossal success for the capital outfit. The Dynamos went into the competition as underdogs, but defied all odds to make it into the top four. After flirting with top spot on a number of occasions during the league phase, it may have been a tad disappointing to finish third.
That being said, they can be mightily pleased about how they have handled the offensive end of their game, and have seized the opportunities that have been handed to them. Losing 1-0 away at Kerala may not be too bad a result and they will be optimistic of overcoming the deficit in front of their home fans.
As mentioned earlier, Delhi are still to taste defeat on their home territory and the backing of a jam-packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will give the players an added impetus to play with their hearts on their sleeves and come away with the all important victory.
Manager Gianluca Zambrotta had a number of positives and negatives to take from his side’s showing in the first leg. While the former Italy international can be happy about the chances Delhi created, he must be extremely frustrated at the lack of precision his side showed in the final third.
Thus, his message to his team will be loud and clear this time around and he will be hoping that his players can show more precision and finesse and get the job done when it matters the most.
Delhi XI: Santana; Kosham, Anas, Rocha, Chakraborty; Tebar; Lewis, Malouda, Singh, Pereira, Marcelinho.
Kerala XI: Nandy; Jhingan, Heingbart, Hughes, Currais; Vineeth, Hossain, Mahamat, Belfort; Rafi; Nazon.
Standing in their way will be a resolute Kerala side that were one of the competition’s punching bags in the initial stages of the season. After finding themselves in a battle for seventh place with FC Goa, a lot of credit must be handed to the Blasters for rising to the occasion and finishing in second position.
They may have their home fans to thank as the Yellow Brigade have shown tremendous support throughout the campaign and played a pivotal role in Kerala taking the ascendancy in the first leg of the semis.
However, the Kerala players will know that their job is far from done, and they will have to work hard on preserving their lead or try to put the game to bed by going for the kill. The Blasters are likely to set up defensively and let Delhi dominate possession, and try and hit them on the counter whenever possible.
The talismanic Brazilian has taken the ISL by storm this season with his immaculate dribbling and prolific finishing ability. He leads the goal scoring chart with nine goals and is showing no signs of slowing down. With a deficit to overcome, all eyes will be on Marcelinho to put in a shift for the capital outfit. His link-up playing with Florent Malouda has been second to none, and the onus is on the duo to put in a shift on Wednesday.
The Indian midfielder is one of the unsung heroes for Kerala Blasters this season. Hossain has been working tirelessly in every match Steve Coppell has named him in the lineup. Along with Azrack Mahamat, the pair looks infallible in central midfield. Even in the first leg, it was due to Hossain’s tenacity that the likes of Malouda, Marcelinho and Milan Singh were kept at way. Another good performance from him can see the Southern outfit make it to their second cup final in three years.
Delhi Dynamos 2-1 Kerala Blasters (Delhi to win on penalties)
The game is extremely close to call and it is due to home advantage why the Dynamos are being favoured. It is expected to be an attacking spectacle, although Kerala will be looking to defend. The first goal will be key and if Delhi manage to score it, then the contest will open up with both teams setting out on the front foot. 180 minutes along with another 30 in added time may not prove to be enough to separate the two, and a penalty shootout is on the cards.