Top 5 players who can make a difference in the ISL final
Written by: Shivam Tiwari
The showpiece is scheduled to take place at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.
The fifth season of the Indian Super League is nearing its showpiece as Bengaluru FC take on FC Goa for the top prize. The Blues have been in the final for the second season running, while Goa will play the final also for the second time in their history, after featuring in the 2015 edition.
The two teams have been the favourites ever since the season began. The Gaurs have been held in high regards for the magical possession-based, attacking game that they have been playing under head coach Sergio Lobera for the past couple of seasons, while the Blues have been hailed as the best football club in the country ever since they came into existence. The players of the two teams and their performances throughout the campaign have only strengthened their belief, that they are the best in the business.
We look at five such players who could prove to be the difference between the two sides when they play each other in the finale.
5. Rahul Bheke
Rahul Bheke has had a sensational season so far. He has been so impactful that his omission from Stephen Constantine's AFC Cup squad was heavily criticised by both fans and pundits. The 28-year-old right-back has been a core member of Carles Cuadrat's squad and has the statistics vouching for him as well.
Rahul Bheke has been a steady performer for the Blues since last season
Bheke has been a part of all but one game this season for Bengaluru and has made the second lowest fouls (15) amongst the players to have played as much as him, while he leads his side in the number of interceptions made - he has 24 to his name this season. The full-back is also the second-best tackler of the team (43 tackles).
It's not just that he's been excellent defensively, Bheke has been involved heavily when Bengaluru have the ball. He has the second most touches of the ball for the team and has completed the fifth most passes for the Blues this season. No wonder everyone wants to see Bheke take on the full-back's responsibility in the national team along with Subhasish Bose.
4. Jackichand Singh
Goa's hero in the first leg of their semi-final against Mumbai City FC, Jackichand Singh comes next in the list. Jackichand was one of the mainstays of the national team ever since he broke onto the scene. But, a couple of gloomy seasons where he failed to make an impact and the meteoric rise of Udanta Singh limited his opportunities.
Jackichand Singh has arguably been the best wide player in the league this season
However, the right winger has not only regained his form, but has also improved to play the best football he has ever played. Jackichand has four goals and four assists this season. Lobera has given Brandon Fernandes and him the freedom of switching flanks in between games and it has only made life miserable for the opposition's full-backs.
Jackichand's combination play with Seriton Fernandes has been laudable as well. The 26-year-old former Kerala Blasters man has helped the full-back with his defensive duties, tracking back and making himself available as an option in menacing situations.
Jackichand would have his task cut out against Sunil Chhetri and the flamboyant Nishu Kumar in the finale, given how error-prone Seriton has been with his sense of positioning at times.
3. Udanta Singh
"The Flash," the future of Indian football - how could he not be a part of the list? Especially, after the kind of performance, the Blues' fans witnessed in the second half of the home leg of the semi-final.
Udanta Singh has come into form at the right moment
Udanta Singh has left fans awestruck time and again this season. One of the main protagonists of the historic win against Thailand in the Asian Cup, Udanta has raised the bar for himself, scoring five goals in contrast to a single one last campaign.
The 22-year-old Manipuri international has the ability to turn the game on its head all by himself, producing moments of brilliance with his pace and trickery. Even though Bheke has provided little help down the right side of the attack, Udanta has made sure that his flank never looks vulnerable to opposition teams.
The battle between Udanta and Mandar Rao Dessai would be a pleasing one for the neutrals and the Blues would wish for Udanta to come out on top.
2. Ferran Corominas
Ferran Corominas is in a league apart from the rest, isn't he? Corominas is the highest scorer of the Indian Super League, despite being in only his second season in Indian football. The former Copa del Rey winner was the top goalscorer in the previous season and looks set to finish this campaign as the same.
Ferran Corominas is the highest scorer in the league this season
Although, Corominas has been on a scoring spree in the Indian Super League, Bengaluru have managed to keep the former Espanyol man silent. Ever since scoring a hat-trick in his first outing against the Blues, Corominas has gone on to lose three games against them, without scoring in any of them.
Lobera has made his team work their game around Corominas and would want his talismanic striker to fire on all cylinders in the upcoming game. Corominas too, would be looking to end the goalless run exactly when it matters the most, in the finale.
1. Sunil Chhetri
How could the Indian captain not be in the list? Chhetri has a tendency to rise to the most demanding occasions. The Indian captain has time and again turned out to be the difference-maker in games for Bengaluru.
Sunil Chhetri is the top scorer for Bengaluru FC and the highest Indian goalscorer in the league
Chhetri has been the highest Indian goalscorer this season, but has been failing to make a big impact. Ever since the Asian Cup, the Indian captain has looked exhausted, thereby failing to get things going as he would have wanted to.
But, he's got the finish, the ability to score and turn the game in his side's favour. Even after going through a dip in form, the forward has scored four times in the last eight games and Cuadrat would want his players to provide their captain with the opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net again on Sunday.
Published: Fri Mar 15, 2019 01:33 PM IST