The Gaurs vs. Super Machans Preview

How Low the Mighty Have Fallen

The two worst teams in the league will face off against each other as the Super Machans travel to The Gaurs’ home ground, Fatorda, Goa. Both Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa have effectively been pushed out of contention for the four playoff spots by their recent results.

Their respective third Indian Super League has been in direct contrast to how they performed in the previous season. The Super Machans and The Gaurs actually played the final last year, which was won by Chennaiyin FC. This time out, however, neither team has managed to replicate their form from the last season.

The Gaurs’ Form & Strategy

rafael-coelho-fc-goaFC Goa, especially, has been woeful and their statistics paint the clearest picture of how poor they’ve been. They’ve conceded the most goals as well as scored the least number of goals in the league till now. Naturally, this has given them the worst goal difference in the league too.

However, what will be even more disconcerting for Zico and The Gaurs is that they now have the ignominious record of being the team that has lost the most in a season in the history of Indian Super League. In a nutshell, The Gaurs’ morale is shot and they have nothing to play for, except pride.

In the third season of the Indian Super League, The Gaurs don’t even have the proverbial silver lining to their thunderous cloud. Two FC Goa players that stand out of the group are Rafael Coelho Luiz and Laxmikanth Kattimani. The striker because of his hardworking nature and the goalkeeper because he has the second most saves in the entire league.

You still have to commend Zico’s persistence because the Brazilian manager is still tinkering with his side, in an effort to find the right combination. You can view this as desperation to fix things or as the reason for all their failings. At the end of it all, though, FC Goa has nothing to look forward to in their last game against the Super Machans.

The Super Machans Form & Strategy

raphael augusto, super machansSuper Machans, themselves, are only slightly better off than The Gaurs. They’re better off because they find themselves out of contention for playoffs by the courtesy of a number of late goals. In fact, till the last game, they were in with a good shout for the fourth spot.

Unfortunately, they conceded a goal in the 95th minute and ended up drawing the game against NorthEast United FC. That draw meant that the Super Machans have now only won 1 game in 9 games! To be fair to them, that run includes five draws which means that they’ve only lost 3 times in 9 games.

Defence has been a problem for the Super Machans in this season. They’ve conceded the second most number of goals in this league and are only behind Goa by one goal.

Mathematically, the Super Machans can still make it to the fourth spot. After all, they’re only off by 3 points. The problem is that they have only one game left to play while their rivals have two and their goal difference is atrocious when compared to their rivals. The Super Machans will have to deliver a historic thumping to The Gaurs to have any chance of making it. This means a 4 to 6 goal win!

With the draw between Atletico De Kolkata and Kerala Blasters FC, there is no way that the Super Machans can make into the semis now. Since it was only a single win or the goal difference that is keeping draw between ATK and KBFC that kept the Super Machans out of the playoff spots, it can be said that they haven’t played that bad this season. Just a bit of luck in a few matches would’ve seen them nearer the fourth spot in the table.

They will look to sign off on this season with a big win simply because Materazzi is a proud and optimistic man. We expect Chennaiyin FC to turn up with an attacking 4-3-3 formation. They will look to feed a lot of balls to their in-form striker Macpherlin Dudu Omagbemi, who scored a hat-trick in the last game.

However, there is no player they will rely more on than Raphael Augusto. Augusto is the leading passer and has the second-most tackles in the league. Moreover, he is the main creative force for the Super Machans with team-leading 4 assists to his name. In defence, they have Karanjit Singh, the man with most clean sheets in the league.

Bad or Worse?

This game will find The Gaurs incredibly demoralised. In contrast, Materazzi will have his players revved up. Furthermore, nothing is going right for FC Goa this season. This lethal combination will see Zico’s team being on the end of a mauling.

For us, this is a certified win for the Super Machans. We expect them to beat their last season’s fellow finalists by 3 – 1. We also think that Dudu will be on the score sheet and that Augusto will dominate the midfield yet again.


The Indian Rojiblancos vs. the Tuskers

Will The Rojiblancos Ride The Elephants Today?

The Tuskers will travel to the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium to face the Indian Rojiblancos in what will be a tightly contested game. The game will be close because there isn’t a lot to separate the two sides. Both of them have garnered the same number of points in their twelve games, even if they’ve done so through different paths.

The Indian Rojiblancos have drawn more games while The Tuskers have won more and lost more games. This difference between the two sides is due to their forms. Atletico De Kolkata has played the whole season in a measured and strategic manner while Kerala Blasters FC has tended to blow hot and cold.

The Indian Rojiblancos’ Form & Strategy

borja-fernandez-atkIn fact, the strategic and tactical game play has been a feature of Atletico De Kolkata not only in this season but in the history of Indian Super League. The Indian Rojiblancos come into this game on a decent run of form too. They’re unbeaten in four games but have only won their last game in that run.

While the Indian Rojiblancos largely manage their games well, their biggest problem is that they lose concentration in the last few minutes of most games. Statistically, ATK have leaked goals near the end of their games.

For example, even though they won their last game, it was only because of a last gasp winner. They led most of that game only to let their opponents equalise in the last ten minutes. Fortunately for them, they retook the lead in the 92nd minute.

The measured Indian Rojiblancos style of play shows in their formations too. They change their shape on the basis of their opponents but it is usually some version of the 4-4-1-1. Hence, we expect to see the same shape this time around.

With respect to key players, the Indian Rojiblancos have good division of labour. Their most effective attacker is Iain Hume who is second in the league with five goals. His presence in this game is iffy, however, since he has been absent for the last two games due to injury.

In the midfield, the Indian Rojiblancos’ best player is Borja Fernandez. He is third in the league in passes and leads his team in tackles. So, he performs the function of disruption and distribution simultaneously. His tackling is going to be the more useful skill in this game since The Tuskers are blowing hot right now.

The Tuskers’ Form & Strategy

Mohammed Rafi, Kerala Blasters FCThe Tuskers blowing hot and cold refers to the fact that they’ve had very bad days and very good days in the league. The early part of their season was quite poor, a period in which they won only two games out of eight played. The latter half, on the other hand, was much better because The Tuskers have won three out of their last four games.

In this game, even though The Tuskers are playing away from home, we expect them to continue their good form and get a result. They’ve build their entire game on defensive solidity provided by the central defensive partnership of the ever-reliant Cedric Hengbart and the influential Aaron Hughes.

Hughes uses his immeasurable international experience to direct the entire defence while Hengbart leads by example with his physicality and athleticism. Hengbart has been so good that he leads the lead in aerial duels won.

The Tuskers, in fact, have a very English game. They not only rely on defensive headers to dominate their opponents but also attacking headers. Their striker, Mohammed Rafi, happens to have won the third most aerial duels in the league.

Owing to their focus on the English style of football, you will see the Kerala Blasters wingers whip in many crosses for their strikers. Whether their strikers convert or not is another matter entirely because even ATK’s defenders are good in the air.

Which Way Will The Fence Topple?

This is why we expect this game to end up in a tame draw. Both teams will most probably cancel each other out with respect to formations and personnel. They will both also play very safe because neither of them will want to lose ground on the other.

In fact, the biggest contributing factor to the draw will be that it will be a good result for both these teams and will go a long way in both of them cementing their semi-finals births. A draw will mean that the Indian Rojiblancos and The Tuskers will both be on 19 points. This will put them four clear of three other teams in the league on 15 points with only two games to go.


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.


The Gaurs vs. ATK Preview

ATK’s Don’t-Lose-First Strategy vs. Goa’s Must-Win Scenario

ATK will travel to the desperate The Gaurs’ home ground in Fatorda, Goa. The objective of ATK will most probably be to continue their don’t-lose-first strategy while the home side will be facing a must-win scenario and will look to take the game to the physical ATK players.

The Gaurs’ Form & Strategy

joffre-fc-goaFC Goa’s position in the Indian Super League is dire. They sit at the bottom of the table, four points off the last semi-final berth with only three games left to play. The Gaur’s situation is even more depressing because even 9 points from the last 9 points may not be enough to save them.

It will be tall order for The Gaurs because they have the least wins and most losses in the league. To win, they’ll have to score more than their opponents. This will be a big problem because The Gaurs happen to be the lowest scoring team in the league that has conceded the second most number of goals and has the worst GD to boot.

In a nutshell, The Gaurs will have to win their last three games and then hope that favourable results in other games. This basically means as many draws in other matches as possible. Thus, The Gaurs will have to go on the offensive and play gung-ho football in their last three games.

They may get a boost in the form of the return of Joffre Mateu Gonzalez, their most creative and dynamic midfielder. Defensively, the boost will come in the form of Lucio’s return, their internationally renowned Brazilian defender.

ATK’s Form & Strategy

sergio-molina-atkOn the other side, the biggest challenge for ATK and their manager, Sergio Molina, will be fitness. Apart from having played their last game four days ago, the Indian Rojiblancos will also have to travel to Goa. This will tell by the latter part of this game.

Luckily, ATK’s don’t-lose-first strategy may serve them well here. We expect them to be compact in this game because that is the best way for them to conserve their energy. If they take the lead through a counter, we expect them to get even more defensive.

In fact, we expect ATK to go for an away draw in this game even though they’ll have attacking options in the form of the Portuguese icon Helder Postiga and the Canadian star, Iain Hume who is important because he is the league’s leading goal scorer with 5 goals. Hume didn’t play their last game due to a minor fitness issue. So, he will be more rested than his teammates.

Will Desperation Win Or Tactics Prevail?

In this game, the most crucial element for either team will be fitness. FC Goa players will be rested since they played their last game eight days ago. Contrast this with the fact that ATK played their last game four days ago and it becomes evident why it’s crucial.

The game will see FC Goa attacking with gusto and ATK defending with determination. ATK will, however, try to squeeze in some counters into the mix. We expect the aforementioned difference in fitness levels to tell sooner or later. But, we also expect Hume to make a difference in this game with an assist or a goal. So, our prediction is a 2 – 1 win for The Gaurs.


ATK vs. NEUTD Preview

Passers or the Pressers in East Indian Derby?

Atletico De Kolkata welcome NorthEast United FC to the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata in what will prove to be a clash of two footballing philosophies – the visitors’ passing game and the hosts’ pressing game. The last time these two teams met, ATK took the game despite NEUTD being at home. It will also be interesting to see how each team copes since both of them dominated their last games only to drop points in the end.

ATK’s Form & Strategy

sameehg-doutie-atkFor the Indian Rojiblancos (something they’re called due to their affiliation with Atletico de Madrid), motivation can be had through the prospect of doing a double in the East Indian derby. Probably more important will be the chance to climb the table up to the second spot.

ATK’s campaign so far in the season has been chequered at best. They’ve had wins, draws, and losses spread across the entire campaign which means they there isn’t any clear form to fall back to while analysing their chances in the game. At the same time, their style of play in the league is very clear.

They approach games with a blend of strategy and technicality. In other words, they change their style to counter their opponents. What this means is that the chances of ATK getting some kind of a result from their games are always high.

Typically, against NEUTD, ATK can be expected to deploy the high press. High pressing strategies usually lead to lots of fouls. ATK, as a team, fouls the most in the league too. Obviously, this means that they’re card friendly (most carded team in the league). So, it wouldn’t be a bad bet to put down some money on at least one of their players getting carded.

ATK’s chances this time have taken a hit due to the absence of Sameehg Doutie, one of their most dynamic attackers. Still, they do have their marquee striker in Helder Postiga and the consistent Iain Hume to rely on.

NEUTD’s Form & Strategy

emiliano-alfaro-neutdFor NEUTD, stopping these players will be crucial since either of them is capable of domination and scoring goals. Their motivation will come from the fact that they’re bottom of the table and without a win in five games. In fact, they’ve lost their last four games.

One of the reasons for NEUTD’s poor performance is the fact that they’ve been unable to score goals. They’re actually the team with the fewest goals in the league to their name. In contrast, their primary striker, Emiliano Alfaro, is the leading goal scorer in the Indian Super League with 5 goals to his name.

This shows that Alfaro isn’t getting enough support from his teammates. It also shows how important Alfaro is to NEUTD. Notably, he was absent for two of their last four games, something that may have contributed to their four losses.

NEUTD are the exact opposite of ATK in that they have fouled the least in the whole league. This is mainly because NEUTD players don’t tackle which is evident in the fact that they have the lowest tackles in the league. Instead, their defensive tactics revolve around interceptions and unforced errors from the opponents.

Will it be the Tingmo or the Patishapta?

Even though NEUTD play football the “right way” and as much as the neutrals may want them to win, we don’t see them turning ATK over today. Their plays just don’t have enough quality and ATK are far too strategic to allow something like that to happen through only teamwork.

ATK’s high press will be a bit too much for NEUTD’s passing game even if the NorthEast United FC players can keep up with Atletico De Kolkata players’ stamina levels. Essentially, we’re predicting a slim win for ATK because they have more quality in their team. So, you can expect a score of either 1-0 or 2-1 in favour of ATK.