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I-League

I-League 2018-19 Team Profile: Churchill Brothers

Written by: Ajay A K

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The Red Machines look confident of turning around their fate from last season. 

After a disastrous last term when they were relegated at the end of the season, Churchill Brothers are back into the fold after the AIFF agreed to let them continue in the I-League. A series of lacklustre performances by the Red Machines backed them into a corner and while they finished ahead of Indian Arrows in the table, they dropped out because of the development side's relegation waiver. Since then, Churchill have invested heavily in the side, roping in several impressive signings as well as a new coaching staff.

Last Season’s Performance

Churchill Brothers started their season with six consecutive defeats last term

Churchill Brothers had a forgettable 2017-18 season. They started the league with a streak of six consecutive losses from which they never really recovered. The Goans ended up ninth in the table and were relegated to the 2nd Division. However, their plea to waive the the drop was accepted and they were reinstated in the I-League for the upcoming campaign. They also took part in the Super Cup where they got knocked out by Mohun Bagan in the Round of 16. Further, they finished seventh in the Goa Professional League, which resulted in a very disappointing term for one of the teams associated with Goan football forklore.

Pre-Season

Churchill Brothers have started preparing for the new season with full intensity. They look determined not to fall victim like last time out. They scored eight goals past Goa Pro League side FC Bardez and also scored five goals against fellow Pro League competitors Dempo SC. The Red Machines then faced FC Pune City in a friendly, which saw the ISL side eke out a 2-1 victory. Trinidad and Tobago forward Willis Plaza scored for the Goan outfit. The foreigner scored a brace when Churchill beat FC Goa 2-1 in another friendly.

The Red Machines have also started their domestic campaign well. In the Goa Pro League, they won comfortably against Velsao SCC with a scoreline of 2-0, after drawing their first match against Guardian Angel SC.

The Coach



Petre Gigiu (left) was appointed as the head coach of Churchill Brothers for the upcoming season

Romanian Petre Gigiu was appointed as the head coach of Churchill Brothers for the upcoming season. The former Levski Sofia striker has managed in Algeria, Oman and Romania before. Gigiu will be looking to enforce organisation within the Goan side’s ranks. He believes in being physically tough and maintaining discipline on the pitch. The tactician expects his side to have high levels of fitness to resist attacks and catch opponents on the break with their pace.

Transfers

After a disappointing 2017-18 campaign, Churchill have undergone a squad overhaul with several players, foreign and domestic, parting ways with the club.

Ins: The Red Machines have managed to rope in several foreign as well as domestic talents for the upcoming season. Khalid Aucho signed from East Bengal, while Mexican forward David Izazola has also joined the Goan side. He comes to Goa after having played in Spain for Salamanca C.F. Defender Nenad Novakovic comes in from Serbia and will be one of the most integral parts of Gigiu's plans this season.

The club have also signed a number of Indian talents. The major ones are striker Clencio Pinto and midfielders Umesh Harijan as well as Gilbert Oliviera from Pro League side Salgaocar and defenders Shallum Pires and Nickson Castanha from Dempo. Goalkeeper Kunzang Bhutia joins from ATK, while defender Jovel Martins joins from FC Goa and midfielder Richard Costa comes in from East Bengal.  

William Niasso from Calangute Association and Fredsan Marshall from Dempo are the other acquisitions from Pro League teams. The I-League side also managed to retain the services of their consistent performers from last season, with Wayne Vaz, Israil Gurung, James Kithan and Nicholas Fernandes set for an extended stay with the club.

Outs: Several players from the 2017-18 campaign were released by the Churchill Brothers management after the dismal performance last campaign. Many foreigners left the club with notable names being defenders Monday Osagie and Emuejeraye Precious.

Full-back Yendrembam Denechandra Meitei left for NEROCA FC, while last season’s top scorer for the Goan side Koffi Mechac, was released. Strikers Francis Oneyamo and Siyo Zunapio have also left the Red Machines after a very short stint. Kyrgyz player Bektur Talgat was also deemed surplus to requirements and joined Aizawl FC.

Squad

Goalkeepers- James Kithan, Kunzang Bhutia, Raunak Gaonkar, Ram Swaroop 

Defenders- Hussein Eldor, Anniston Fernandes, Nenad Novakovic, William Niasso, Nickson Castanha, Jovel Martins, Shallum Pires, Wayne Vaz, Suraj, Sadik Ingalgundi, Babu Naik, Cinstancio Rodrigues, Calvin Soares, Rohan Adnaik

Midfielders- Khalid Aucho, Israil Gurung, Nicholas Fernandes, Alber Gonsalves, Janak Kudmal, Umesh Harijan, Arvind Silva, Savlin Cardozo, Terrence Lobo, Vishalie M, Richard Costa, Cyrus Noronha, Gilbert Oliveira, Harshad Naik, Deryl Endri, Rishab, Abhishek, Gogo, Vinit Pujari, Fredson Marshall

Forwards- Willis Plaza, Ceesay Dawda, David Izazola, Uttam Rai, Agnelo Colaco, Nitin Bhandari, Clencio Pinto, Pankaj Sona, Valerio Rodrigues, Aldrich Coelho, James Fernandes

Formation & Tactics

The Red Machines look likely to lineup in a conventional 4-2-3-1 formation in the upcoming season. Plaza is expected to be the lone striker upfront. His pace and energy will be key to the success for Gigiu's system in the long run.

 

Churchill Brothers' probable lineup in I-League 2018-19 season

Foreigner Aucho and local lad Nicholas Fernandes are expected to form the two-man pivot, with Dawda Ceesay playing behind the striker. Serbian Nenad Novakovic is expected to start with Lebanese defender Hussein Eldor at centre-back.

Vaz will play on the right side of defence with Alber Gonsalves taking command of the left. Gurung and Fredson Marshall will play on either side of Ceesay. James Kithan will start as the goalkeeper. Gigiu can also opt for a 4-4-2, with Mexican striker Izazola supporting Plaza upfront and one of the overseas players being replaced.


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Strengths

The strength of Gigiu’s Churchill Brothers side lies in their discipline and organisation. The immensely fit and physical side have the ability to threaten any team on the counter. Plaza has been a force to be reckoned with during pre-season and will play a major role during the league campaign. His pace and aerial threat can be a problem for defences to deal with.

Weaknesses

The defence looks like the major issue Gigiu should address. The side have new players in the back four and their ability to gel together and work as a unit will be key for Churchill. There is also a lack of pace in the backline, which could leave them vulnerable against teams with a fast and pacy attack.

Fixtures

  • 28.10.2018- Minerva Punjab FC vs Churchill Brothers SC- Tau Devi Lal Stadium (2 PM)
  • 01.11.2018- Chennai City FC vs Churchill Brothers SC- Nehru Stadium (5 PM)
  • 06.11.2018- Real Kashmir vs Churchill Brothers SC- TRC Ground (2 PM) 
  • 15.11.2018- Churchill Brothers SC vs Shillong Lajong FC- Tilak Maidan (5 PM)
  • 25.11.2018- Mohun Bagan vs Churchill Brothers- Salt Lake Stadium (5 PM)
  • 30.11.2018- Gokulam Kerala FC vs Churchill Brothers SC- EMS Corporation Stadium (5 PM)
  • 09.12.2018- Churchill Brothers SC vs Aizawl FC- Tilak Maidan (5 PM)
  • 15-12-2018- NEROCA FC vs Churchill Brothers SC- Khuman Lumpak Stadium (2 PM)
  • 20-12-2018- Churchill Brothers SC vs Quess East Bengal- Tilak Maidan (5 PM)
  • 30-12-2018- Indian Arrows vs Churchill Brothers SC- Kalinga Stadium (5 PM)

Churchill Brothers' first 10 fixtures in I-League 2018-19

Top 3 Players

Willis Plaza

The Trinidad and Tobago forward has looked very bright during pre-season. He had already scored three goals in two matches for the Goan side in the Super Cup last season and the former East Bengal striker looked in top form in the preparatory games ahead of the new campaign,  notching up a brace against ISL side FC Goa in a friendly. He threatened the Gaurs' defence throughout the match, keeping them on the edge. He also scored in a friendly against Pune City. He is pacy and is also an aerial threat. His form will be a key component in Churchill’s season.

Nenad Novakovic

The Bosnian defender answered all doubts regarding his abilities by putting in a stellar shift against FC Goa in the friendly match at the GMC Athletic Stadium, Bambolim. With Churchill Brothers missing several key foreigners, the new signing took responsibility and led the Red Machines’ defence. They managed to keep FC Goa’s famed attack at bay for the majority of the game.  He will be an influential figure for Churchill during the campaign.

Israil Gurung

The former Pune City winger has the prior experience of playing for several major clubs in India and also featured for Portuguese side Vitoria de Guimaraes B. The experienced Gurung has been retained by Churchill following his performances last season and he will be looking to repay the faith shown in him. He has the ability to play on both sides of the pitch and with his pace and dribbling, he poses a potent threat to any opposition full-back.

What to Expect

Churchill Brothers are determined to put in a good showing and bring back relevance to Goan football. They will be looking to make amends for their disastrous 2017-18 campaign. Their squad looks solid.  A mid-table finish in the I-League is a must for the Goan side.

Published: Mon Oct 22, 2018 05:32 PM IST

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