The Indian Rojiblancos vs. The Stallions Preview

Will the Stallions Herd One Last Time or Will the Bucks Be Broken?

The Indian Rojiblancos will welcome The Stallions into their home at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata in a match that doesn’t have a lot of significance for the visitors.

The Stallions have let slip the chance to participate in the playoffs stage of the Indian Super League in the last few games. In contrast, the Indian Rojiblancos have already clinched their semi-final berth and all that needs to be decided is which spot they’ll occupy. Continue reading

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KBFC vs. FCPC Preview

Two Teams in Dire Need to Bounce Back

Habas and his team FC Pune City will visit Coppell and his Kerala Blasters FC, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. This is a very crucial game for KBFC and FCPC both since each of them is in need of a significant bounce-back.

There is a lot of similarity between the two teams. Both of them are on 15 points and are separated only by goal difference. Both of them are within touching distance of a semi-finals birth. Both of them have gone through poor stretches of results before turning things around with back to back wins. Moreover, both teams suffered in their respective last games in different ways, so it will be interesting to see which of them shows the most character and spirit.

KBFC’s Form & Strategy

ck-vineeth-kbfcKBFC’s last game was a disaster. They went down two goals early in the first half to Diego Forlan. As they tried to regain parity with attacking football, they were put to the sword by Mumbai City FC. They lost that game 5 – 0. Irrespective of what anyone says, their last game will have had a huge impact on their morale which, in turn, would influence this game significantly.

After all, before their last game, KBFC were the most defensively sound team in the league. That game took them from the least conceding team in the league to an average team. Since their entire style of play is based on defence, the thumping they got in their last game would’ve affected them severely. In fact, the resounding dent to their morale will most likely result in Coppell setting them out even more defensively in this game against FCPC.

For example, if they don’t have their defence to rely on, they have nothing because they’re one of the lowest scorers in the league with only 9 goals from 11 games. The only silver lining in that dark cloud of despair will be CK Vineeth who has scored 3 goals in 3 games.

FCPC’s Form & Strategy

mohamed-sissoko-fcpcFortunately for KBFC, FCPC is in the same boat. For FCPC, the lack of morale will come from having lost their last game in the dying minutes to a stoppage time goal. Still, FCPC would be hurting far less than KBFC simply because they can rely on their standout performers.

Of these, Mohamed Sissoko, their marquee signing, will be the most crucial. Sissoko is renowned for his physical, tough-tackling style of play and has exhibited the same by being amongst the top 3 tacklers in the league. However, Sissoko has shown another aspect of his game this season too. He happens to be the second most proficient passer in the league.

In addition to Sissoko, FCPC will be able to rely on Anibal Zurdo Rodriguez, who happens to have scored only one goal fewer than the league leaders. Rodriguez has scored 4 goals.

Will It Be The Tuskers Or The Stallions That Stampede?

Even though FCPC has attacking potential, you can expect them to set out their stall to not concede. This is their usual strategy for away games. We expect them to maintain the status quo and not change something that has worked for them in the majority of situations.

So, that shows us that KBFC and FCPC both will be defensive in this game. They will play conservatively and avoid taking risks. Neither of these teams has the kind of player that can generate a moment of pure magic too. This means that this match will decidedly be a drab affair. Thus, our prediction for this game is a drab, goalless draw.

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FC Pune City vs. Northeast United FC Preview

Aggression vs. Finesse

FC Pune City will look to pile on the misery on NorthEast United FC as the Stallions host the Highlanders at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium. The matchup between these two teams is billed to be one where physical aggression is pitted against passing finesse.

NorthEast United FC’s Form & Strategy

didier-zokora-northeast-united-fcNorthEast United FC’s Nelo Vingada likes his team to pass the ball around on the deck before releasing the defence-splitting through balls. The Highlanders are fairly consistent in their formation, relying on 4-5-1 heavily. Even though they use a five-man midfield, they do tend to tweak within that formation to account for opponent’s capabilities. They switch between 4-1-2-2-1 with wide wingers for opponents that are dangerous on the attack and 4-2-1-2-1 with tucked in wingers for opponents that are defensively proficient.

The Highlanders started the Indian Super League season 2 in a rich vein of form, taking down FC Goa (2 – 0) and Kerala Blasters FC (1 – 0) but have since stumbled in their first away game at Mumbai City FC. Having said that, it is important to note that NorthEast United FC gave a good account of themselves in their last match, despite the 1 – 0 score line.

That single goal was a result of an unforced error by their marquee player Didier Zokora in the form of a poor cross-field pass over the penalty box. The poor pass resulted in the penalty that was converted. For this reason, it would be interesting to see if Mailson Alves, their primary defender, will return from injury to face FC Pune City or if Zokora will continue in defence.

FC Pune City’s Form & Strategy

mohamed-sissoko-fc-pune-cityFC Pune City started the season poorly with a home loss (0 – 1) to their derby rivals Mumbai City FC. However, they turned things around in their last game away to FC Goa by stealing the game in the 90th minute. They won with a score line of 1 – 2 and the 90th-minute goal is bound to have left them in very high spirits coming into this game. Effectively, while the Stallions will be raring to go, the Highlanders will have to pick themselves up.

The home team has the potential to mix things up with respect to their formation. In the first game, FC Pune City set out in the 4-2-3-1 formation, while in the second they played in the traditional 4-5-1 formation. There will be a notable difference in style between these two teams because FC Pune City’s manager Antonio Habas likes a tough game.

He prefers a battling style of play with a lot of physicality, something that is reflected in his marquee signing Mohamed Sissoko. Sissoko really threw himself around in the last game but got away with it. If he continues this style of play, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he receives his marching orders or, at the very least, a yellow card.

How Will the Cookie Crumble?

The result of this game will rest on which style of play comes out on top – the passing game or the physical game. Key players for both teams will be playing in the same positions i.e. the roving playmaker, defensive midfielder, and the goalkeeper. For the Highlanders, performances of Nicolas Velez and Borges will be the key since Subrata Paul, their keeper is certain to be stable and reliable considering his form. On the other side, The Stallions will rely on their playmaker, Jonatan Lucca, their keeper, Apoula Edima Edel Bete, and their defensive midfielder Sissoko.

The two teams can be said to be equally matched, so a scoring draw (1 – 1) will be the most likely result. However, if you were to be brave, a small punt towards a home win with a score line of 1 – 0 wouldn’t be all that amiss. A long shot would be to put money on Lucca to score; he’s in very good form.

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FC Pune City vs. Atletico Kolkata Review: FCPC Beat ATK; Top League

FCPC vs. ATK

So, you’ll be getting a downsized review of the match between FCPC and ATK today. The reason is that a moped driving ATK fan (I am guessing an ATK fan since it was in a Bengali dominated neighbourhood in Delhi) ran into my tank of a bike today. I mean my bike didn’t even wobble and all I did was lifted up my left leg to allow the speeding “mopeder” hit my gear lever.

The guy fell so I had to stop or it would’ve been hit and run except that I was hit and I would’ve run. By the way, in case you’re wondering, my “tank of a bike” is a Pulsar 200. What can I say, when you go against a moped, every bike is a tank of a bike, even a Boxer.

As for those of you who are whiny and have a self-entitled attitude, please feel free to complain to the ISL Blog customer service centre against this humble blogger. I agree with you by the way. Today’s amateur bloggers are virtually useless. They disappear when they want, have battles with mopeds whenever they want. I mean you must want your money back… oops. Well, complain anyway, maybe you’ll get 100% refund!

ATK Were Already Down To FCPC

FCPC - Jackichand Singh

FCPC – Jackichand Singh
Credit: Vipin Pawar / ISL/ SPORTZPICS

By the time I sat down, six minutes were already over so there won’t be any team news today except whatever I deign to mention during the rest of the report.

You can take this up with the ISL Blog customer service centre too.

More importantly, by the time I started watching, ATK were already a goal down.

From what I heard from the commentators, it was a special goal from Jackichand Singh. I promptly went and checked the replays and found that the finish was very sweet.

The ball came to Jackichand who finished it well first time itself. He came in running off the shoulder of the last defender and hit the ball with his left leg across the goalkeeper into the far corner of the goal. FCPC 1 – 0 ATK

FCPC Run Rampant Over ATK

FCPC - Yendrick Ruiz

FCPC – Yendrick Ruiz
Credit: Vipin Pawar / ISL/ SPORTZPICS

From the time I joined the country in watching this match, I saw FCPC in the ascendancy but at the same time, ATK weren’t looking fazed.

FCPC were rampant for the next 15 minutes but ATK looked very mature to me in the way they were handling the pressure.

The moment I wrote that, ATK started playing like schoolboys. First, Borja Fernandez took out Tuncay just inside the box which should’ve been a penalty.

That was followed by a FCPC double chance.

FCPC countered with Sanli Tuncay showing some great skill on the ball. He crossed the ball from the right to Yendrick Ruiz who nodded the ball goalwards from point-blank range. His header, however, was blocked off by a defender. The ball then fell to Jackichand also in point-blank range. He also headed the ball goalwards but it was against blocked by a defender with his chin.

The Game Gets Disrupted

FCPC - Sanli Tuncay

FCPC – Sanli Tuncay
Credit: Pal Pillai / ISL/ SPORTZPICS

The game got disrupted after that period of FCPC domination.

It began with Lenny Rodriguez getting injured and substituted for Bikash Jairu.

This was followed by a period with constant possession changes and breakup in play.

ATK seemed to be targetting Tuncay particularly too.

Even so, both teams were guilty of fouling pointlessly but I think that strategy was more in favour of FCPC than ATK. ATK needed momentum while FCPC needed disruption. I wonder why ATK were doing that.

Could it be a natural reversion to type? In fact, the evidence was all over the game. Despite the disruptions, FCPC’s attacks were more potent. There was only one good chance of note from ATK in that period and that too was a snapshot from a very acute angle.

Strange Tactical Decision From Habas Begins Second Half

ATK - Jaime Gavilan

ATK – Jaime Gavilan

The second half began with a substitution from Habas the Henchman. He took off Javier Lara, who had an indifferent first half, and brought on Jaime Gavilan. Look, I don’t know how Gavilan all that well.

What I do know is that he is more of a complete midfielder as opposed to Lara who is an out and out attacking midfielder.

I think Habas felt that his team were losing the game in the midfield so he tried to fortify the middle of the pitch. However, in my eyes, it didn’t make jack of a different.

For a good part of the early second half, FCPC were all over the ATK half. They were attacking from all possible directions.

In fact, ATK were having trouble getting out of their half and hacking the ball out doesn’t count!

Broken Open Play With Multiple Fouls And Substitutions

ATK - Sameehg Doutie

ATK – Sameehg Doutie
Credit: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

15 minutes into the second half and with FCPC still dominating, Jackichand started struggling on the pitch.

FCPC put Manish Maithani on for their goal scorer.

This must’ve been a shot in the arm for ATK because they no longer had to worry about the effervescent pace of Jackichand.

ATK made their change at the same time as well.

Whether the change was due to the removal of Jackichand making ATK more confident or it was part of the tactical plan is up to you to decide.

ATK brought on Sameehg Doutie, an attacking player, and took off Ofentse Nato, a defensive player. That substitution was followed by the entrance of Sushil Kumar Singh for Nadong Bhutia.

A Rare Chance For Hume And ATK

ATK - Iain Hume

ATK – Iain Hume

There was a good chance for Iain Hume, probably his first, in the 80th minute. It was an acute angle but it was still the best chance ATK had had till then.

Hume received the ball inside the box on the right from an even more right sided player, Doutie. He got a shot off and tried to squeeze the ball under the keeper but Steve Simonsen’s knee blocked it.

FCPC continued their onslaught with Lyngdoh’s freekicks continuing to cause ATK trouble.

Lyngdoh dropped the ball into the middle of the box onto the head of Adrian Mutu (who had come on earlier). However, Mutu could only head the ball over the crossbar.

A similar chance fell to Borja in the 90th minute from a corner. Borja put the free header over the crossbar a la Mutu.

Tactical Analysis: First Impressions + Projections

Habas the Henchman gave too much respect to FCPC. I think a very subtle thread of fear took hold of ATK even before they came to Pune because they didn’t play with any freedom at all. Their game play was almost always cautious. When that happens, the passing becomes slower, more deliberate, and hence less effective.

What that does is dries up the supply for the striker. When the passing is slow, the defence finds it easier to make interceptions and players are not encouraged to move into open positions and tactical holes. As a result, the defence is never pressured. You tell me, how many good chances did ATK have in that game?

How do I know that ATK showed too much respect to FCPC? Well, you don’t play two defensive minded midfielders if you’re not scared of the other team. ATK played Borja and Nato both in the same midfield. Is it a wonder that Iain Hume got no service whatsoever from ATK midfield?

On top of this, Habas the Henchman decided to take off an attacker for a slightly less attacking midfielder. Then, he kept Adil Nabi off and brought on Sushil Kumar Singh and Doutie. Even after those substitutions, you could see ATK passing the ball side to side but when they passed it forward, turnovers were the result.

FCPC won because of three players. Jackichand Singh because of his pace and trickery. Those skills made are partly the reason why ATK deployed two defensive midfielders. The second player was Sanli Tuncay. Tuncay’s skills include heading, tenaciousness, and trickery with the ball. He was another reason for the two defensive midfielders.

Finally, the third player was Didier Zokora who gave FCPC’s defence backbone and gumption. Even in the 94th minute, it was Zokora who was clearing crosses and harassing passers. Another player who deserves a mention here is Eugeneson Lyngdoh, whose set piece skills are truly marvellous.

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Indian Super League 2015 Preview II: FCPC, MCFC, Dynamos, and NEUTD FC

Indian Super League 2015This is the second half the Indian Super League 2015 preview. In the last instalment, I gave my opinion of how Atletico De Kolkata, Kerala Blasters FC, Chennaiyin FC, and FC Goa have prepared for ISL2. My focus was on the backroom (senior management) staff and their efforts because they seem to always escape attention. However, it is the senior management that is mostly responsible for getting in new players, getting the existing players to sign contracts, and even improving the training facilities.

I grant you naysayers that the system on which the Indian Super League is built isn’t all that “senior management” focused but that doesn’t mean that those rich blokes can sit on their arse and do nothing. They have to be active during the off season in getting in new international players and re-signing the players that their managers have pinpointed as must-have.

Mumbai City FC Will Be One Of The Most Improved Teams And Should Reach Playoffs

Mumbai City - Sony NordeBe afraid; be very afraid of what Mumbai City FC can do this season. MCFC fans must be licking their lips at the prospect of seeing this team out in the field. I think what Nicolas Anelka has done with this team in his managerial capacity is nothing than brilliant.

The choice of his signings as well as the kind of signings he has made show that The Great Sulk has it when it comes to management. For instance, Anelka has focused on high quality attackers and looked for consistent defenders. His team’s attack force is being lauded in the mainstream media and rightly so. He’s got some real talent on the attacking front and what’s scary is that all of them won’t even be able to enter the field at the same time.

Consider the fact that Anelka can line up Frederic Piquionne, Sunil Chhetri, Andre Moritz, and Sony Norde on a single pitch, if he chose to overload his attack. Of these, the only player I am not sure of is Frederic Piquionne. I wasn’t sure of his abilities when he was in the peak of his years and now that he’s 36 years old, I am even more sceptical. Sunil Chhetri needs no introduction to any Indian football fan but I will point out that he will most probably not play MCFC’s first two games on account of his national team hero’s doodies. The same goes for Andre Moritz and Sony Norde with the latter lighting up last year’s I-League with 13 assists and nine goals.

Mumbai City FC - Darren O DeaAnelka’s decision to go for consistent defenders from lower European leagues is a stroke of genius too. Defending is only an art form at really higher levels.

At lower level football, defending is more about being in the right place consistently which is a result of good physical fitness and decision making.

I think with the defenders Anelka will rely on like Darren O’Dea (a former Bhoy), Frantz Bertin (a good, mobile defender), and Cmovs (we know what he can do already) will be more than capable of blunting most other teams’ attacks this season. This list doesn’t even include Juan Aguilera Nunez and Selim Benachour, both of whom are capable of dribbling, passing, and creating chances from midfield.

All this adds up to one thing and one thing alone. I predict Mumbai City FC to have a great Indian Super League 2015 season. Whichever way you look at it, MCFC fans should get ready to party in the coming three months of the Indian Super League 2015.

FC Pune City Can Click Or Miss In the Indian Super League 2015 Season

FC Pune City is a mystery. Their chances in the Indian Super League 2015 season are in flux. The situation of FC Pune City is such that their fans will be feeling incredibly positive while their detractors will be rubbing their palms in glee too. The reason why I feel that FC Pune City’s fate is too hard to call is that there are too many uncertain variables involved.

For instance, take their manager, David Platt. Platt was a good man to bank on in his playing days but his managerial career has neither been stellar nor abysmal. He has cruised through his managerial career almost ambivalently. He could make all the difference in the case of FC Pune City or he could get trapped in mediocrity.

FC Pune City’s marquee player is Adrian Mutu and he is travelling in the same boat. At his peak, Mutu was a star performer. He had the talent, pace, power, and skill to take apart any defence but he got taken apart by his penchant for drugs. I’ll be frank: I liked Mutu even though he played for Chelsea before he actually got caught with drugs in his system.

Following double bans, Mutu’s career dove into oblivion in a blur. He could continue his bad boy attitude or turn it around with FC Pune City in the Indian Super League 2015 season. To be fair to Mutu, he does have noble intentions this time around. He has come out and said that he hopes to make the Euro 2016 if Romania qualifies. Apparently, his manager has told him that if he plays well, then he’ll be considered for the trip to France.

That’s enough incentive for any professional footballer. It is doubly so for one who has thrown away his whole career for entertainment, indulgence, and sheer stupidity. Whether the Indian Super League 2015 season will be Mutu’s redemption season or not will play a major role in how FC Pune City performs.

Mainstream media says that Mutu will be partnered by the Nigerian international Kalu Uche. Uche isn’t of the same pedigree as Mutu when it comes to talent but he does have a very unpredictable snapshot that could get him a few goals in ISL2. Still, instead of Uche, I think Tuncay Sanli will be a better option for Platt for partnering Mutu. Sanli is a Turkish star who is capable of scoring and assisting. Sanli has a good freekick on him too. If Sanli and Mutu click, then FC Pune City will click too in Indian Super League 2015.

Indian midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh can also come really good for FC Pune City. Eugene is a central midfielder who has a calm, composed, and visionary head on his shoulders. As for the other well-known Indian midfielder in FC Pune City’s ranks, Jackichand Singh, you can see him as the Romeo of the Indian Super League 2015 season. Jackichand Singh is a tricky winger who can be expected to have a breakout season a la Romeo last year.

FC Pune City - Didier ZokoraDefence of FC Pune City is decent but not great with recognisable but non-star names like Nicky Shorey (left back / centre back) and Roger Johnson (central defender). Both, Shorey and Johnson have heavy experience in English Premier League. I have seen them both play in the past and both of them are consistent.

They will do the FC Pune City defence a world of good especially since they’ll be protected by hard man Didier Zokora. Zokora is another who has had good top flight exposure in multiple leagues. However, I think his temperament is suspect because he has a tendency to get too many cards.

When I consider FC Pune City’s Indian Super League 2015 squad, I see hope for boom and hints of bust.

This is why I think that their future can be a hit or a miss. Personally, I hope they do well. I’ve always liked a fairy-tale story and would appreciate such stories for people like Mutu. I also want to see Eugene and Jackichand do well (yes I am a martial arts / Jackie Chan fan like his parents).

Northeast United FC Can Surprise Everyone in the Indian Super League 2015 Season

Say what you will but I will always have a soft spot for any team or individual who is trying to compete with limited resources by focusing on long term development. This is why I am a lifetime fan of Arsenal and this is why I like Northeast United FC. There’s something special about striving when the odds are all up against you. In simple terms, I want Northeast United FC to succeed because they remind me of Rocky – the underdog.

So, what was it that sucked so badly with Northeast United FC last season? At the root of it all was lack of funds but on the pitch, it was their attack. Their defence was fairly steady led by Miguel Garcia but NEUTD FC was almost toothless in attack. They would maintain possession but have no way to breach defences. They’ve focused on these flaws and prepared for the Indian Super League 2015 season well if you ask me.

They’ve changed their manager and brought in Cesar Faria. Cesar Faria likes to play possession football and does have some serious achievements in his past in the role of the manager. It might be a coup for NEUTD FC to have gotten him. I am very curious to see what Faria can do with a team as brimming with talent and energy as NEUTD FC. Under his tutelage and tactical acumen, I expect to see some surprise results from NEUTD FC.

In addition to their manager, NEUTD FC have also brought in Simao Sabrosa. Simao is a playmaker who can play in the wings or as a central attacking midfielder. He has awesome dribbling and free kick ability. Both of these are skills that make a difference in the Indian setup as we saw in the last season (think Elano, Santos, and Dos Santos). Simao has had a rich and happening career. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if there was no Ronaldo, he could’ve been the most popular footballer from Portugal.

Northeast United FC - Boubacar SanogoAnother gem that NEUTD FC have brought in is Boubacar Sanogo. Sanogo is an Ivory Coast international and any football follower would tell you that Ivory Coast is no longer a chump team in world football.

To have gotten into their national team is an achievement in itself so I think Sanogo will be a good player to watch. Sanogo will most probably be partnered by Diomansy Kamara – the man whose best days were spent at Portsmouth, West Bromwich Albion, and Fulham.

Kamara is also a dribbler and channel runner so he should dovetail well with both Sanogo and Simao. They also have Francis Dadzie and Nicolas Velez who can play in attack. Dadzie will be a physically imposing backup striker while Velez I think will be deployed on the wings.

It would be interesting to see who is between the sticks for NEUTD FC between Gennaro Bracigliano and Rehenesh TP. Although I do think it will be the former and not the latter simply on age and experience.

In Indian Super League 2015, I expect NEUTD FC to challenge for the last playoff spot and possibly make it if they can really maximise their potential.

Delhi Dynamos FC Will Continue To Be The Worst Team In The Indian Super League 2015 Season

Adil Nabi! Adil Nabi! And Adil Nabi! That’s all that Delhi Dynamos FC fans have to be cheerful about in the Indian Super League 2015 season. Fine; seeing Roberto Carlos Florent Malouda, and John Arne Riise on the same pitch maybe something that will make them smile. However, I still feel that the one player who’ll truly shine for them in the Indian Super League 2015 season will be Nabi. Carlos is so much past his best that he has a belly; Malouda had started disappearing in games long before he came to Delhi, and Riise is a defender by trade who never really had a lot of flair.

The reason why I think Adil Nabi will be a standout performer for Delhi Dynamos FC in the Indian Super League 2015 season is his skill. He is young, has oodles of technique, and even has that rare striker’s instinct. Mark my word, he will make many defenders in ISL2 look like muppets on their backside before he’s done. For those of you wondering why he is here, my answer is simple. West Bromwich Albion have been focusing on India for a long time as a market they want to tap into.

If Nabi can capture some fans, then West Brom get those fans by simple transference. At the same time, Delhi Dynamos FC has experience in the form of Carlos, Malouda, and Riise. West Brom must be hoping that Nabi can learn something from them. I still think this loan is more of a business call than a youth development call.

I hope Carlos pairs Nabi with Robin Singh but I have a feeling that Richard Gadze (can’t see him being all that good) will get preference there. Riise will most probably be a central defender or be deployed in midfield. I have no idea where Carlos sees himself playing. Midfield should also see Serginho Greene (hard tackler), Dos Santos (had a good season last time), and Hans Mulder (the man from Star Wars and the X-Files).

While Delhi Dynamos FC has improved from last season, according to me, the improvement isn’t enough. They will remain the worst as per my assessment. I think even Northeast United FC will be above them this time around but it will be a close run thing.

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