I-L: Rivalries set to be renewed
Traditional rivalries, war of words, riveting contests, goal fests, Devon Loch moments, wiles of top drawers, new signings' impact... the phoney war of the transfer window is over -battle royale is set to kick-off.
Reigning champions Churchill Brothers will play the Opening Match of the League seventh edition against city rivals Salgaocar this Saturday.
The occasion will be graced by the Governor of Goa, Vir Bharat Wanchoo alongwith I-League CEO Sunando Dhar.
Churchill will aim to do set retain the title the other twelve Clubs including debutants Bengaluru FC and newly promoted outfits Mohammedan Sporting and Rangdajied United FC will go all out to upset the Red Machines' applecart.
Newly appointed Technical Director Sukhwinder Singh and Head Coach Mariano Dias will be pleased with the fact that Churchill's new signing Hugo Machado, roped in to fill the void left by Roberto Mendes Silva (Beto) - is finding the net more often than not in the ongoing Goa Pro League. Machado has so far scored three goals in the local League where Churchill are on top of the heap.
Like a student determined to come first after a string of seconds in school, Kolkata giants East Bengal, fresh from their adventures in the AFC Cup, will look to avoid being pick pocketed at crucial junctures and steer clear of Goan domination as soon as possible.
Under new Coach Brazilian Marcos Falopa who has big boots to fill, that of Trevor James Morgan, the Red and Gold brigade will have to strike the right chord to outscore their rivals.
The Squad though does look promising with quality reinforcements in the form of Ryuji Sueoka who is expected to pull the strings in the middle of park, much like former playmaker Penn Orji did.
Prolific goal-getter last season for Pune FC, James Moga is also a good addition and is expected to fire in tandem with Chidi Edeh up front. India Internationals Shylo Malsawmtluanga and Joaquim Abranches should also to add teeth to the final third.
When East Bengal is being discussed, Mohun Bagan can't be far off. The green and maroons under seasoned Coach Karim Bencherifa would aim to redeem themselves and with the likes of Sandip Nandi, Yusa Katsumi and Adil Khan who have been roped in and is expected to combine in tandem with the indefatigable Odafa Okolie. Trophy-less for quite some time, the historic Club can be in the ascendancy this Season.
Coming to the most successful side in the I-League so far, and they have a point to prove. A below-par 2012-13 Season, five-time National League/I-League Champions have bolstered their arsenal significantly with signings of Simon Colosimo, Billy Mehmet, and Beto. Indian stars such as National attacker Jeje Lalpekhlua and Jewel Raja has also put pen to paper for the Goan heavyweights.
With highly-rated Australian tactician Arthur Papas at the helm, Dempo would be hoping to turn a new leaf this Season.
Not too far is Pune FC, who had struck the perfect overall balance last Season finishing second in the last edition. The Red Lizards will look to continue their meteoric rise since their inception under new Dutch Coach Mike Snoei. The likes of Spanish striker Raul Fabiani and English defender Calum Angus are expected to help their cause.
Oscar Bruzon's Sporting Clube de Goa is also one club to look out for, keeping in mind their recitals both last Season as well as in the ongoing Goa Pro League. Liberian Striker Boima Karpeh has been in the form of his life netting 12 goals so far in the local League.
United SC will look to beat all odds this time and better their fourth-finish of last Season. The men in purple are more or less the same bunch apart from the inclusion of Eric Brown.
With former India Captain Climax Lawrence in their ranks, Khalid Jamil's Mumbai FC will aim to do one better than remaining mid table fodder this time round. Playing party-poopers has been their mainstay, but time is ripe t change gear especially drawing inspiration from locsal rival Pune FC.
Former I-League Champions Salgaocar will hope to start a new chapter under Derrick Pereira. The reinforcements in the form of Scotsman Daryl Duffy and French Claude Gnakpa alongwith Chika Wali and Karma Tsewang should boost their chances.
Ditto with Shillong Lajong who have some good names in World Cupper Cornell Glen.
On to the newcomers, and Mohammedan Sporting seems determined to beat the drop this time. The Kolkata club which boasts of a huge fan following failed to hold to the Elite Division in all their four attempts except in the 2005/06 Season under Subhash Bhowmick.
Keen to change the trend, the Durand Cup finalists have added Nigerian Penn Orji and Australian Tolgay Ozbey in their ranks apart from Brazilian stopper-back Luciano Soborosa and Nigerian Josimar da Silva Martins.
Under AIFF's Coach of the Year Derrick Pereira, Salgaocar cannot be written off at any juncture. However, you can underestimate them but at your own peril.
Meanwhile 2nd Division Champions Rangdajied United will be banking mostly on home talent and with Santosh Kashyap - who guided wooden-spooners ONGC to the top half of the table - at the helm, they may spring a few surprises.
Bengaluru FC, in their maiden run in India' Premier Club Competition look good with India strike duo of National Captain Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh donning their nascent blue. Under young Coach Ashley Westwood, their journey would be worth watching.
May the best team win.
(Posted on 21-09-2013)