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Kalinga Super Cup

Kalinga Super Cup 2024: Intense rivalries & unpredictable showdowns await in India's premier football tournament

Published at :January 9, 2024 at 5:41 PM
Modified at :January 13, 2024 at 11:36 AM
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(Courtesy : I-League)

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Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan & East Bengal are in the same group.

India’s domestic football is ready for a spectacle at the start of the new year as 16 powerhouse teams from around the nation converge in the highly-anticipated Kalinga Super Cup 2024.

With the group stage scheduled to kick off on January 9th and run through January 28th, this tournament promises to be a riveting display of skill, strategy, and pure footballing brilliance as the tournament returns to Odisha for the first time since 2019.

Group A: Local rivalries on the national stage

Mohun Bagan Super Giant, East Bengal FC, Hyderabad FC, Sreenidi Deccan FC

There will be high expectations from East Bengal FC, who have been a tough nut to crack in the ISL this season and come into the tournament on a five-game unbeaten run. Their local rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant had made a blistering start to the season but three straight losses have seen them slip to fifth place in 10 matches. As such, the Kolkata derby on January 19 is the fixture to watch out for, and East Bengal will have redemption on their minds following their defeat in the Durand Cup final to their arch-rivals just four months ago.

The other two sides in the group also hail from the same city – Hyderabad, but different leagues. While Hyderabad FC are having a horror of a campaign as they are bottom of the ISL table with just four points from 11 matches, failing to register even a single win this season, Sreenidi Deccan currently sit in third place in the I-League, hot in the chase for the promotion to the ISL.

Group B: Four teams hungry for silverware

Kerala Blasters FC, NorthEast United FC, Jamshedpur FC, Shillong Lajong FC

Group B of the Kalinga Cup 2024 promises more exciting fixtures as the current ISL leaders Kerala Blasters FC open their campaign against I-League’s fifth-placed side Shillong Lajong FC. Ivan Vukomanovićs’ side, boasting an array of world-class talent, are the favourites to top Group B, but they won’t have it easy against NorthEast United FC and Jamshedpur FC.

Juan Pedro Benali’s NorthEast United find themselves in the play-off spot in the ISL and will hope to replicate their semi-final run in last season’s Super Cup. On the other hand, Jamshedpur haven’t had the best of ISL campaigns this time around, but will hope to make a fresh start in the cup competition.

Bringing an air of unpredictability into the group are Shillong Lajong. The newly-promoted I-League side have enjoyed a great deal of success in front of their home crowd in Shillong, and it will be interesting to see how they perform outside their comfort zone in their first appearance in the Super Cup since the inaugural edition in 2018.

Group C: Can there be a surprise?

Mumbai City FC, Chennaiyin FC, Punjab FC, Gokulam Kerala FC

Group C offers a fascinating array of footballing styles and promises a taste of brilliant footballing display, setting the stage for a battle between creativity and structure.

Mumbai City FC may seem like favourites to win the group with regards to their consistency in the ISL, but anything can happen in a three-game group stage. Their first challenge will come from Gokulam Kerala, who are buoyed by their 4-1 success over I-League title challengers Sreenidi Deccan, a win which ended their six-game winless run and gives them a much-needed boost ahead of the Kalinga Super Cup.

The other two teams that complete Group C, Chennaiyin FC and Punjab FC, may have had below-par performances in the ISL, but are sure to come out all guns blazing in Bhubaneswar, fighting for pride and silverware.

Chennaiyin and Punjab face off against each other to open their campaigns, which will be chapter three of the season. They have met twice already this season in the ISL, producing two contrasting results, a 5-1 thumping for the Marina Machans at home, before a 1-0 win in Delhi for Punjab, their first-ever in the ISL.

Group D: The likely group of death

FC Goa, Odisha FC, Bengaluru FC, Inter Kashi

Group D kicks off with an exciting fixture between FC Goa, the only unbeaten side in the ISL this season, and Inter Kashi, who thrashed Rajasthan United 5-0 in the qualifying play-off to complete the cast of 16 at the Kalinga Super Cup group stage.

The two sides have had contrasting seasons in their respective leagues. While FC Goa are living the dream in the ISL sitting in second place, two points behind Kerala Blasters but with two games in hand, I-League newcomers Inter Kashi are struggling in eighth place, but have found some form of late, losing only once in their last six games.

Bengaluru FC will aim to erase the memories of a disappointing 2023 Super Cup final and reclaim the title they won in 2018. However, the path to success is laden with challenges, as they face the defending champions Odisha FC, in the repeat of the 2023 final in the first match on January 12.

Odisha are in stellar form, unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions, and playing in front of their beloved Kalinga crowd is only going to spur them on even more. Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, have had a troubling ISL campaign as they sit in ninth place with only 11 points in 12 games. The mid-season Kalinga Super Cup presents a great opportunity to take their mind off the sticky situation in the league and start with a clean slate.

All the matches will be broadcast Live on Jio Cinema.

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