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I-League GW 1 Preview: Mohun Bagan head to Minerva, East Bengal host defending champions Aizawl

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The Indian top flight returns with more new teams and better coverage, with the Red and Gold's title quest once again the predominant sub-plot

The new I-League season is just around the corner and the Indian football fraternity is waiting eagerly to see how the league can compete with the Indian Super League this season. The league was dealt a big blow in the summer when many of its stars opted to play for the ISL clubs. It got even worse for them when giants Bengaluru FC opted to be a new entry to the ISL this season and the seemingly never-ending uncertainty surrounding the league proved its fragile state.

But, the I-League did get some attention from the All India Football Federation, who decided to give Star Sports the broadcasting rights and make sure the games are all telecast live. The league will also see the introduction of some new teams, including Gokulam Kerala. The India U-17 players who impressed in the FIFA U-17 World Cup will also get a chance to impress, as the Indian Arrows club has been set up featuring a mix of former India U-17 and current India U-19 national team players.

It will definitely be an exciting season in the I-League, with the strong Kolkata clubs looking to compete for the title and the revamped defending champions Aizawl FC looking to retain their championship. We have some exciting matches on our hands in the first week itself and we take a look at how they might go in our preview.

Minerva Punjab vs Mohun Bagan

Date & Venue: 25th November/Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana

Time & Broadcast: 05:30 PM/Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD/ HotStar & Jio TV

Minerva Punjab barely managed to avoid relegation last season, but owner and CEO Ranjit Bajaj has seemingly gotten a hold of things now and made some impressive signings prior to the I-League season’s kickoff. Minerva are now a blend of impressive foreigners and blooming youth, with some U-17 players also set to make debuts this season. They are looking a dangerous attacking unit and did well in the pre-season, and can definitely threaten the surprisingly weak Mohun Bagan defense in the first gameweek. Punjab will look to start with a could and will definitely create a lot of problems for the Mariners.

Mohun Bagan tried their best to gain entry into the ISL in the summer but will look to win the I-League now that they’ve failed to get that done. The Mariners are looking really strong heading into the season and also signed last season's top scorer Asier Dipanda Dicka ahead of the season. Most importantly, they retained the services of captain Sony Norde, who will be decisive to their title charge this time. The Mariners will look to start the season strongly and can prove their devastating attacking quality against Minerva. Coach Sanjoy Sen is sure to unleash his best players in what will be a tricky season opener.


Related:

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: Minerva Punjab FC

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: Mohun Bagan


Shillong Lajong vs Gokulam Kerala FC

Date & Venue: 27th November/Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Shillong

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD/ HotStar & Jio TV

Shillong Lajong FC were quite badly hit by the ISL draft, with many of their players opting to join other clubs. But arguably the biggest blow was when coach Thangboi Singto joined Kerala Blasters as their assistant manager in the summer. Despite all that, Lajong have managed to build a promising team under new coach Alison Kharsyntiew and have a rather young and exciting squad this season. They look stable defensively thanks to their new signings the youthful forwards will make for some impressive attacking displays. Lajong will definitely threaten newcomers Gokulam Kerala on Monday and will look to prove their mettle with a powerful start.

Gokulam Kerala FC are a great addition to the I-League because of how they’ll expand the stretch of the league to the football-crazy state of Kerala. The team itself is a brand new one and is made up of mostly local players. There are many Kerala-based players in the team, with their captain Sushanth Mathew bringing some valuable experience with him. Along with him, Kerala also signed striker Kamo Stephane Bayi who is himself an I-league winner and potent goalscorer. They’ll look to take Shillong by storm in their opening match. Gokulam have that unpredictability to their game and will look to use that to their advantage in this exciting opener.


Related

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: Shillong Lajong

Gokulam Kerala FC provides platform for Kerala Football

First-timers Gokulam Kerala FC keen to impress


First time in the history Hero I-League will be shown live on Star Sports

East Bengal Vs Aizawl FC

Date & Venue: 28th November/Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD/ HotStar & Jio TV

East Bengal showed a lot of intent of winning the I-league in the summer, by announcing Khalid Jamil as their new manager for the season. The I-League winning manager brings a proven talent with him and has signed many stars to build a dangerous-looking team ahead of the season. The Red and Gold Brigaders lost some key players to the ISL, but Jamil has reconstructed them into a promising team with some really strong players. The tactician will look to start his East Bengal career with a win against his former club as he seeks to do what no other manager has done in the league's history, which is to win the title for the Kolkata giants.

Aizawl FC completed quite the underdog story last season by winning the I-League under Jamil, but they face an uphill task in trying to retain their crown. Now that Jamil has left for opponents East Bengal, they’re under Paulo Meneses who has built a strong team despite many first-teamers opting to leave for other clubs. Aizawl still has a decent Indian core and are retaining the same psychology they did last season. The defending champions will have a lot to prove in their opening match, where they’ll look to put a spanner in Jamil's works.


Related

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: East Bengal

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: Aizawl FC

East Bengal to get international sponsorship boost ahead of I-League campaign

The future stars who will play for the Kolkata I-League clubs this season


After an impressive performance in FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, India U-17 boys set to play professional football. 

Indian Arrows Vs Chennai City

Date & Venue: 29th November/Fatorda Stadium, Goa.

Time & Broadcast: 05:30 PM/ Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD/ HotStar & Jio TV

Indian Arrows are looking to be a promising project started by the AIFF, who decided to give the stars of the U-17 World Cup some game-time together by creating a team to play in the I-League. The Arrows will be managed by coach Luis Norton de Matos and we can expect them to be a really exciting team knowing the impressive work shown during the U-17 World Cup. The Arrows are up against Chennai City FC in the first match, which will be a difficult game for the youngsters, but it’ll be one they’ll be raring to go in and play some entertaining, free-flowing football together.

Chennai City FC bloomed as a unit towards the end of the I-League last season, giving some impressive performances and surviving relegation at the end. They have retained coach V. Soundaranjan because of his impressive management last season, and he in-turn has kept faith with some important players this season. Chennai have built a decent team and can expect to see much improvement with Soundaranjan’s first full season as their coach. They’ll look to spoil the party for Indian Arrows and begin their season with all three points on Wednesday. 


Related 

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: Indian Arrows


Minerva Punjab vs  NEROCA FC

Date & Venue: 1st December/Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana

Time & Broadcast: 05:30 PM/ Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD/ HotStar & Jio TV

Minerva Punjab will probably find it difficult to start their season with all three points, but the revamped club will look for what is realistically looking to be their first win of the season against new-comers Neroca FC. Punjab will look to give the champions of the I-League 2nd Division a rude welcoming to the I-League, with their dangerous attack looking to start banging on goals against Neroca. It’ll be an open match because of the style of game-play between the two clubs, but Minerva will definitely be gunning for a win to steady the ship ahead of some difficult games ahead.

Neroca FC were really impressive in the I-League 2nd division last season when they surpassed many “bigger” teams and sailed their way into winning the league and booking their place in the top division this season. They’ve managed to retain some of their key players who played a part in their success and have expanded by getting some experience foreigners into the team as well. Manager Gift Raikhan will look to create an underdog story of his own with Neroca this season, with the team looking to prove their ability against Minerva Punjab in the opener. They’ll look to use their unpredictable factor to their advantage and create a storm for Punjab and start the season with a bang.


Related 

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: NEROCA FC

I-League 2017-18 Team Profile: Minerva Punjab FC


 

Published: Fri Nov 24, 2017 07:51 PM IST

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