Many teams will try to stake their claim to the title this season.
The 15th edition of the I-League is set to begin from December 26, 2021. The league will take place in a secure bio-bubble in Kolkata due to the dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
The upcoming season will have several new teams in the league competing for the top honours. Sreenidhi Deccan will be making their debut in I-League 2021-22. Rajasthan United and Kenkre FC will also participate after impressing in the I- League Qualifiers. The newcomers will surely face a stern test from the well-established teams.
All in all, the I-League is still very unpredictable. The competition will be fierce and the margins separating the sides will be very fine. That said, there are a few clubs that are truly stronger than the others, at least on-paper. These teams have made noteworthy signings and have squads that can help them win the competition.
As the fans wait in anticipation of the start of the I-League 2021-22 season, here are the top three contenders who can win the title:
RoundGlass Punjab performed well last season. The outfit finished second in the league standings after the first phase and reached the Championship stage. Ultimately, they finished in fourth place with 22 points. This time around, the outfit are looking to improve on their previous season’s display.
The club have appointed an experienced coach in Ashley Westwood to lead the team in the new season. Impressive signings like Kean Lewis, Robin Singh, Shankar Sampingiraj, Kurtis Guthrie and Travis Major will certainly give the team a huge boost. If RoundGlass Punjab are able to build on the progress of last year, then they will certainly be amongst the title contenders.
Rajasthan United will play in the I-League after winning the I-League Qualifiers earlier in October. Founded in 2018 as JECRC FC (Jaipur Engineering College and Research Centre FC), the club got rebranded as Rajasthan United in 2018. The head coach for the 2021-22 season is Francesc Bonet, a former Barcelona academy coach. He is only 28-years-old and has a UEFA Pro License, which suggests his credibility.
Rajasthan United have momentum in their favour and will carry the winning combination into the I-League 2021-22 season. Moreover, impressive foreign signings like former Odisha FC, Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan star Marcelinho, ex-Corinthians player Fabiano Alves and former I-League winner Komron Tursunov make Rajasthan United a very dangerous side.
Mohammedan SC are a huge favourite to win the I-League in the 2021-22 edition. The Kolkata-based club impressed with their performance in the Durand Cup 2021, losing narrowly to ISL side FC Goa in the final. The Black Panthers defeated Gokulam Kerala and Bengaluru United in the quarter-final and the semi-final respectively, in the Durand Cup. The Gaurs had to rely on an extra-time goal to overcome their challenge in the final.
The outfit finished fifth last year after reaching the Championship stage. Foreigners like Marcus Joseph, Andjelo Rudovic, Shaher Shaheen and Nikola Stojanovic add a lot of firepower to the team. It will be interesting to see how Andrey Chernyshov navigates around the competition and mounts a challenge for the I-League.