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ISL Game Week 8 Preview: An age old rivalry to welcome 2018 in style

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Indian Football traditional rivalry on the cards as ATK hosts the Goan club of ISL.

The Indian Super league resumes in the New Year with an old rivalry match between ATK and FC Goa on Wednesday, while Kerala Blasters take on in-form FC Pune City the very next day. This round will also feature the match between Jamshedpur FC and Mumbai City FC, whereas Goa will travel to NorthEast United for the start of the weekend followed by the two big matches on Sunday.

Former I-League champions Bengaluru FC will clash with two-time ISL champions ATK in the early evening, while Chennaiyin FC will lock horns with Delhi Dynamos later.

ATK vs FC Goa

Date & Venue: 3rd January/ Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata.

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

After not featuring in the last week, Goa will take on ATK in one of the oldest rivalries between the two footballing states. Sergio Lobera’s men have done exceptionally well this season, having registered three consecutive wins in a row, scoring 14 goals with brilliant short passing play. However, they completely failed to continue their fine form against Pune as they went down by two goals in their last match. Unlike other coaches in the league, Lobera has made no changes to the starting XI in the last five matches and most likely to continue with his winning combination.

On the other hand, ATK, the two times winner of ISL, failed to deliver the expectation of their fans with just two points from their first four games, but two narrow wins in the last two matches against Mumbai and Delhi has raised them to the seventh position with eight points from six outing. Coach Teddy Sheringham, who had a first home win of the season against Delhi, is still in the search of the best XI from the available squad, but he is most likely to go with the similar combination which helped him to three points in the last match.

It was a 1-1 draw when Goa played ATK in the last season in Kolkata, however, the Western state has never won against Kolkata in the history of ISL. Kolkata has managed to come out victorious on four occasions, while other four matches failed to break the deadlock.   

With marquee footballer Robbie Keane absent, Sheringham is likely to put his faith on Bipin Singh who assisted Keane against the Dynamos. The highest scorer in the league Ferran Corominas will have to play the important role if Goa are looking to get back to winning ways.

FC Goa need three points to climb to the top

The combination between Coro, Lanzarote and Mandar has been fantastic since the start of the season, whereas Eduardo Bedia and Ahmed Jahouh’s brilliant play with some pin-point deliveries from the midfield makes it easy for the trio to march swiftly into the rival's half. The Kolkata franchise will most likely depend on a defensive gameplay against Goa, considering the absence of hitman Robbie Keane in their midst.

Kerala Blasters FC vs FC Pune City

Date & Venue: 4th January/Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kerala.

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Kerala are in miserable form at the moment, having registered their only win in the league against NorthEast after three consecutive draws and a thumping 5-1 defeat against Goa. Coach Rene Meulensteen failed to continue their form as Chennaiyin held them to a 1-1 draw, followed by a wake-up 3-1 defeat to Bengaluru in the last encounter. The Dutch coach is still in a search of a formula to convert draws into the wins as the South Indian team has mostly conceded in the dying minutes which has led to draws or defeats. 

Meanwhile, Serbian coach Ranko Popovic has managed to bring Pune in the top two positions with a brilliant turnover after the first match defeat against Delhi. The Stallions have 15 points from eight matches, whereas, they also have scored the second-highest 17 goals, one less than Goa. Popovic was experimenting with the squad with rotating policy from the start but it looks like the Serbian has finally found his perfect XI.

Though Pune are in the fantastic form this season, Kerala have the advantage in terms of head-to-head as the South Indian team have managed to defeat the Stallions on four occasions, compared to Pune’s single win in the second season, while the clash between the two sides in Pune ended in stalemate the last season.

Adil Khan is playing an important role in the Pune’s success so far. The defensive midfielder has been all over the pitch since making a comeback in the league, being the highest rated player by the ISL in their last two matches. Popovic will definitely have high hopes for the 28-year old CDM. On the other hand, CK Vineeth has been consistent with the form for his hometown club. The forward has already scored each against NorthEast and Chennaiyin to rescue four points from two matches and he will have to play an extraordinary role if Kerala is hoping for all three points.         

Jamshedpur FC vs Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City FC thrashed Delhi Dynamos with 4 goals to nil in the last game week

Date & Venue: 5th January/ JRD TATA Sports Complex, Jamshedpur.

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Jamshedpur FC were a club on which many expectations were laid due to its quality squad and an excellent manager in the form of Steve Coppell. But Coppell seems to be unable to deliver the goods for the SteelMen as the attack of the team has lacked sharpness. They have scored only twice this season, but what they lack in goals, they have delivered in defence by standing strong against all their opponents.

Mumbai City, on the other hand, has managed to get two back to back victories against the punching bags of the ISL, Delhi Dynamos and NorthEast United. This has reinforced their spirit and has ensured that Mumbai City enter the furnace at Jamshedpur with their heads in the clouds. Mumbai are heavily reliant on Balwant Singh, Achille Emana and Everton Santos to perform if they are to win the games.

From a tactical standpoint, it is going to be the clash of two defensively astute teams one of which, Mumbai, have found their balance in attack while the other is still struggling to find the back of the net. Mumbai might break out of their deep-lying pragmatic style and go all out to attack, but they should bear in mind that Jamshedpur will look to pounce on every counter attack they find.

There is a good chance that Mumbai City FC will adopt its 3-4-3, high pressing style of play while Jamshedpur will go with the classic English 4-3-3. Keeping in mind their tactical standpoint, Mumbai's player to watch will be their star striker, Balwant Singh, who would be looking to add to his tally of goals and climb up the Golden Boot charts, while Jamshedpur's Indian Spider-man Subrata Paul will have to put his life on the line if he wants to prevent his former team from scoring.

NorthEast United FC vs FC Goa

Date & Venue: 6th December/ Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati.

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

NorthEast United's Portuguese coach Joao de Deus will be under terrific pressure as his side have lost their last four matches on the trot. No tactic seems to be working for him as it is almost midway into the league and the team's defensive record has not been scintillating. However, the young local talents like Len Doungel and Malem have shown signs of brilliance running down the wings but it does not make any difference for the Portuguese coach unless and until the whole squad put some extra efforts to down rivals.

This will be Goa’s second away match in the gap of four days and to play an away game in Guwahati has always been difficult for opponents but coach Sergio Lobera will be looking to take advantage of the poor form of the Highlanders. If Goa win their match against ATK and continue the trend in Guwahati, it will bring back the Gaurs to the top of the table with 18 points.   

Last season, Goa had lost to NorthEast when Guwahati hosted the match but bounced back with a 2-1 win at home. The Guars have won three matches, while the Highlanders have defeated Goa only once in the past. Two matches between the sides ended in a 1-1 draw.   

Brazilian attacking midfielder Marchino is the only bright spot in the squad when it comes to turning possession into the attack. Despite missing absolute sitters game after game, the coach cannot afford to bench his brightest midfielder. He will definitely have a part to play when NEUFC score their next. Lobera will count on Coro in Guwahati as the former Espanyol forward has racked up 8 goals and assisting thrice in 6 matches. He will look to add more to his tally and add to NEUFC's woes.

Sergio Lobera's men have been on the mark when it comes to the most important job of the game, i.e. scoring goals. Be it Coro, Lanzarote or Mandar, they have outshined all the other clubs, scoring 3 goals per match on an avg (6/18). Ahmed Jahouh has marshalled the midfield responsibly. While the defence has been tiptoed every game, evident from the fact that they don’t have a single clean sheet in their 4 wins, they have covered that up with their prolific goalscoring.

On the other hand, creating chances and feeding the ball into the box is average for the NorthEast. Taking those half chances and finishing off is what is costing the team. The team attacks together and defends together but they suffer mostly from counter attacks, whereas they also lack a proper leader on the pitch.


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Bengaluru FC vs ATK

Date & Venue: 7th December/ Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru.

Time & Broadcast: 05:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Bengaluru FC fans are becoming an integral part of the club

The clash between the two champions will boost up Sunday evening when Albert Roca’s men take on Teddy Sheringham’s reformed side in the highly anticipated match of the season.

After back-to-back defeats at the hands of Chennaiyin and Jamshedpur, Roca got some relief after defeating Kerala 3-1 in the last match but playing against Kolkata will not be easy for the Spaniard as ATK have recorded consecutive two consecutive narrow wins over high-flying Mumbai and the poor Delhi in the last two games respectively. However, the absence of marquee player Robbie Keane can put some pressure on coach Sheringham.

The high flying Blues, with all the firepower at their disposal, will most likely go for an attacking gameplay against the Kolkata franchise. Captain Sunil Chhetri is expected to lead the ranks while ATK is expected to put their hopes on wide players such as Zequinha and Bipin Singh against the Blues.

Bengaluru, as seen many times since the beginning of the tournament, is expected to start the game in a traditional 4-1-4-1 with Miku operating in the frontlines. On the other hand, the visitors are expected to fight it out in a possession-based gameplay against the counter-attacking side of Bengaluru FC.   

Chennaiyin FC vs Delhi Dynamos

Date & Venue: 7th December/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai.

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar.

Looking at Delhi’s form, Chennaiyin coach John Gregory does not have much to worry about but the English man will not take them lightly and will go with a strong lineup. Delhi coach Miguel Portugal, on the other hand, will once again go with high hopes for his side to come out with at least a point from this match after losing their last six consecutive games.

Delhi just have three points in their bag, having played seven matches and sit at the bottom of the table, whereas Chennaiyin are at the top of the league with 16 points from eight outings. Having played almost half of the season, this will be an important match for the Lions if they are looking to get back into the league and a win in their hometown will help them to make their position strong to be in contention for playoffs, which already looks slim.

Last time when both the teams met in Chennai, Delhi had the upper hand with a 3-1 win over the host team. Delhi also have upper hand in terms of head-to-head as they have won four times, while Chennayin managed to defeat the North Indian team only once.

Raphael Augusto will be back in the line-up against Delhi and given the form Delhi are in, they will struggle against the Brazilian. Whereas Jeroen Lumu, who was the highest rated player for Delhi in the last match against Mumbai, made some swift raids from the wings to threaten the rival defence and if Delhi are looking for at least a point from this difficult fixture, the Dutch winger has to play an important role to help his side. 

It'll be a 4-2-3-1 for Chennaiyin. Since Bikramjit is injured, Thapa/Germanpreet will go into the other holding position along with Dhanapal G., whereas Delhi coach Portugal will most likely to go with same 4-3-3 with Romeo Fernandes and Nandakumar Shekar helping Guyon Fernandez in the attacking. Matias Mirabaje will miss the clash due to the Red card in the last match. David Ngaihte is most likely to replace the Uruguayan in the midfield.

Published: Tue Jan 02, 2018 07:54 PM IST

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