Chennaiyin FC vs. Mumbai City FC Preview

The Battle for the Top Spot Commences

Mumbai City FC travel south to face Chennaiyin FC at their home, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in what is going to be the battle for the top spot in the league. Both, Chennaiyin and MCFC can take the top spot with a win in this game with the former relying on Goal Difference and the latter on an extra game.

Chennaiyin FC’s Form & Strategy

raphael-augusto-chennaiyin-fcThe reigning champions, Chennaiyin FC, will be coming into this game on a good run of form, which may be slipping. They’ve won 2 of their last 4 games but have only drawn the latest 2. This means that the Super Machans are on a 4-game unbeaten spree, even though they’ve only taken 2 points from their last two games.

Typically, Chennaiyin is a very midfield focused team. Marco Materazzi, their manager, relies heavily on his midfield to perform to churn out results. This is reflected by the fact that their leading goal scorer is the central midfielder, Hans Mulder, with 2 goals. Furthermore, the other central midfielder Raphael Augusto is not only their leading passer but also tackler.

Unfortunately, the Super Machans may be without Mulder since he got injured in the last game. Instead, they will be relying on their combativeness and pure desire to beat Mumbai City FC. Chennaiyin FC players are generally confrontational and don’t back off from a duel. This is clearly a quality that they draw on directly from their manager Materazzi who is known for inciting the infamous head-butt from Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup Final.

Despite the combative nature of the Chennaiyin players, they still allow opposition players to play their attacking game. Chennaiyin keepers collectively have the most saves in the league, which means that their defence lets them down consistently. In spite of this, though, their goalkeeper Karanjit Singh leads the league with three clean sheets. With respect to the playing style, Chennaiyin like their long balls with a special focus on diagonals which brings in their wide forwards into the game. You can expect the same style of play against Mumbai City FC.

Mumbai City FC’s Form & Strategy

pronay-halder-mumbai-city-fcIt will be interesting to see how Mumbai City FC players cope with the inherent combativeness of Chennaiyin players mainly because MCFC players are prone to picking up cards. In fact, MCFC is a very card friendly team. Two MCFC players, Pronay Halder and Sehnaj Singh, lead the league on the table of shame with 4 yellow cards each. Needless to say, this tendency will be something that Alexandre Guimares, MCFC manager, will have to consciously root out for this game.

While midfielders like Halder and Singh were losing their way, another MCFC midfield Lucian Goian was keeping things together. His game is the foundation that MCFC launch their attacks out of because he wins the ball back and serves it through a simple pass to more creative players.

Mumbai City FC is actually a good attacking team too. While many of the recent results haven’t gone in favour of MCFC, that is only because they’ve been unlucky. MCFC has played most of their games on the front foot but has failed to convert the chances they’ve created. Most notably, they attack as a team and have a good passing game.

This is proven by the fact that goals and assists are shared equally amongst the MCFC players. Even so, the most key combination for MCFC will be Matias Defederico and Diego Forlan. Whenever the two play together, MCFC looks almost irresistible.

How Will The Scales Weigh?

As a matter of fact, if Defederico and Forlan start this game, then in our eyes, an MCFC win is certain. Even if they don’t start together, we believe that their passing game will prove to be too much for Chennaiyin FC. We predict a score line of 2 – 1 in favour of MCFC with Defederico either scoring or assisting.

You can also expect a few yellow cards in this game owing to the fact that MCFC players are generally prone to being warned and Chennaiyin players rarely ever back off from a fight.

Atletico De Kolkata vs. Mumbai City FC Preview

ATK Bid for the Top Spot as MBFC Visit

Expect a lot of entertainment as the swashbuckling Mumbai City FC visit the home of Indian football to face Atletico De Kolkata at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata. Considering the previous game between these two teams this season, hosted by Mumbai, this one is going to be highly eventful too.

When Atletico De Kolkata visited Mumbai, the game had everything from goals to yellow cards and physicality to a sending off. Despite what the watchers of ATK may think, it was actually a Mumbai City FC player that was sent off for two yellow cards. It was crucial too because without that sending off, Atletico De Kolkata seemed all set to lose that game. As it was, the sending off allowed them to equalise. That game may be the blueprint for this game.

ATK’s Form & Strategy

sergio-molina-atkAtletico De Kolkata will need to be far more effective in the final third in this game than they were when the two sides met in Mumbai a few days ago. They simply can’t rely on a sending off to have a positive impact on the game. Fortunately, they are in form. In fact, ATK happens to be the only unbeaten team in the league now. More importantly, if ATK’s one game in hand is taken into account, they may well claim the top spot in the league after this game.

ATK has consistency and familiarity on their side since their coach Sergio Molina clearly has a system in place when it comes to formations, tactics, and personnel. He is retaining his team’s shape and formation from game to game and still managing to rotate his squad in and out of it. He has even managed to tweak his style of play on the basis of his opponents’ attacking prowess.

This isn’t something that many teams in the league can claim. This familiarity will come in handy for them. You can expect ATK to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation. They will depend heavily on their home support too. Kolkata is the hub of football in India which means that ATK has the largest support in the league in terms of sheer numbers.

MCFC’s Form & Strategy

alexandre-guimares-mcfcMumbai City FC, on the other hand, can be best described as reeling if you only consider their last few results. They’re on a dismal run and have only garnered two points from the last 12. This is in direct contrast to how they started i.e. six points from six. However, their last two results can be associated with bad luck.

MCFC played very well in their last game against FC Goa. They did everything right except for putting the ball in the net. In the game before that, the score was 3 – 3 which, in itself, is rare and speaks volumes of the type of game it was. Alexandre Guimares, Mumbai City FC’s manager has an attacking style of play and he makes no excuses for it so we can expect MCFC players to come out of the huddle aggressively.

In Which Forest Will The Tree Fall?

This game has entertainment written all over it. Both teams have some really good players. For Atletico De Kolkata, Sameehg Doutie has been in form. While he has scored only two goals till now, he has been a constant thorn in the opponents’ side. With respect to Mumbai City FC, their most in-form player Matias Defederico may be unavailable which could be a body blow for them. They will rely on their marquee player and legendary Diego Forlan even more now.

As the last game between these sides showed, ATK players are far more disciplined and tactical than MCFC players. MCFC players are also competitive to a fault, which means that ATK’s physicality will rile them up. We can expect a few yellows in this game because of this. Even so, the naivety of Mumbai players will tell in this game which is why we’re plumping for a win for Atletico De Kolkata. ATK to take this game with a score line of 1 – 0.

Delhi Dynamos FC vs. Mumbai City FC Preview

Reeling Mumbai City FC Visit the Capital

India’s capital is all set to see a match between two hard hitters of the Indian Super League as Mumbai City FC visit Delhi Dynamos FC. Delhi Dynamos is one of only two unbeaten teams in the league while Mumbai City FC when fully fit, has played some of the most attractive football in the league.

Delhi Dynamos FC’s Form & Strategy

gianluca-zambrotta-delhi-dynamos-fcThe fact that Delhi Dynamos or The Lions are unbeaten in the league means that their form going into this match is good. They’ve drawn two and won one of their last three games. Notably, in the last game, Delhi Dynamos FC stood toe to toe with the league leaders and the most in-form team in the league, NorthEast United FC. The only reason The Lions lost that game was a mistake from Ruben Rocha. Rocha has been a rock for Delhi in all their games up until he was dispossessed near his goal.

Delhi Dynamos FC also happens to be one of the most consistent teams in the league when it comes to formations. Their high-profile manager, Gianluca Zambrotta, uses the 4-1-4-1 attacking formation. Moreover, Zambrotta doesn’t even like to change his starting eleven, unless forced by fitness issues. In each of the last three matches, his midfield consisted of one playmaker and no less than two wide forwards.

Zambrotta likes to start Florent Malouda, Delhi’s marquee player, in alternate games due to his fitness limitations. Malouda has the pedigree as he’s a four-time French Ligue 1 winner, one time English Premier League winner, and one-time UEFA Champions League winner. Despite the fact that Delhi Dynamos rely on wing play a lot, Malouda (a former France international winger) is deployed in the midfield playmaker position. Zambrotta, incidentally, is a World Cup Winner with Italy and has an amazing 98 international caps.

Mumbai City FC’s Form & Strategy

alexandre-guimares-mumbai-city-fcThe Stallions come into this match against The Lions off a shocking defeat. Mumbai City FC’s first two games in the league were near perfect. In contrast, their last two games have been disappointing. MCFC self-destructed against Atletico De Kolkata through a red card and played like listless zombies in their last loss to the previously woeful Kerala Blasters FC.

In the last game, neither could Mumbai City FC find their attacking touch nor could they discover any kind of defensive cohesion. The Stallions’ combination play, movement, and passing were depressing, to say the least as they kept turning over the ball throughout the game. The 1 – 0 score line in favour of Kerala Blasters FC was flattering for Mumbai City FC who could’ve actually lost by 3 or even 4 goals.

Mumbai City FC’s poor performance can be attributed to their coach’s penchant for tinkering with his team. He has a tendency to keep changing his formations, which prevents his players from gelling. It almost seems like he’s trying to find the right combination of tactics and players in live matches. To be fair to him, he did lose his marquee player Diego Forlan two games into the season and has to compensate since. Forlan is expected to be out for this game as well which doesn’t bode well for Mumbai City FC.

How Will The Dream Totem Fall?

Logic states that Delhi Dynamos FC is better placed for this game than Mumbai City FC. The Lions will have their marquee player and are more coherent in their setup. In contrast, The Stallions neither have their star man nor their confidence. Further, their manager insists on chopping and changing team shape, team style of play, and even personnel.

In simple words, Mumbai City FC is unstable while Delhi Dynamos FC is stable. The winning team, for us, is clear in this game. We predict a win for Delhi Dynamos FC with a score line of 2 – 1 because even an unstable Mumbai City FC is capable of scoring one goal.

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.