India is gearing up for the up-coming show-stopper in the World of Sports— Reliance Indian Super League. Dazzling in all its glory with star-studded teams, ISL promises to be the next big thing after its cricket-counterpart Indian Premier League. The ISL gets underway in the City of Joy, as the home team Atletico de Kolkata takes on the Los Galacticos of India, Mumbai City FC.
Atletico de Kolkata –
Under the ownership of Harshvardhan Neotia, Utsav Parekh, Sanjiv Goenka, the city heart-throb Sourav Ganguly and the Spanish stalwarts Atletico de Madrid, ATK is one of the teams to watch out for in the inaugural campaign of the ISL. The red-and-white stripes had a rather quiet players’ draft with the Bengal giants picking up local talents and a few proven international talent in the form of Denzil Franco and Climax Lawrence. ATK was the first team to draw the most attention after its collaboration with the Spanish La-Liga champions Atletico de Madrid and the subsequent signing of marquee player Luis Garcia.
Atletico boasts of a mixed blend of players ranging from sturdy defenders to technically astute midfielders to flamboyant forwards. Having played most of the pre-seasons in a 4-4-1-1 formation, Jose Antonio Lopez Habas, coach of Atletico de Kolkata might continue to deploy the same formation throughout the season.
Subhashish Roy Chowdhury remains to be the clear-cut choice as goalie for coach Habas having played there in the pre-season games ahead of Armenian Apoula Edel and Spaniard Basilio Agundo .Spanish right-back Josemi will be a sure starter casting doubts on Denzil Franco’s involvement. Arnab Mondal, a regular starter for East Bengal and a rock at the heart of defence will partner erstwhile AS Monaco centre-half Sylvain Monsoreua. Nallapan Mohanraj will be given the task to marshall the left side of the pitch.
Luis Garcia, having plyed his trade with Barcelona, Atletico de Madrid and Liverpool in the early 2000s, the Spainard’s technical ability is grade above the rest. His presence in the centre of the pitch with the likes of Spanish playmaker Borja Fernandez, Czech star Jakub Podany and India’s Sanju Pradhan will make a strong and fluid central midfield.
Erstwhile Ethiopian skipper Fikru Teferra, Bangladesh starlet Mohammad Rafi, Spanish Arnal Libert and Indian marksman Baljit Singh Sahni will be competiting for the the lone striker role for the hugely anticipated ISL opener against Mumbai City FC. However, Teferra had a good start to his pre-season with Atletico and his place in the squad might as well be set in stone. Mohammad Rafi might start as the support striker behind Teferra.
Mumbai City FC –
MCFC grabbed many eyeballs with their extravagant approach to the ISL scalping the footballing greats in form of Nicolas Anelka, Swedish masterclass Freddie Ljunberg and German stalwart Manuel Freidrich. Mumbai City FC means business with their top-class signings and their highly ambitious approach to the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League.
Ranbir Kapoor, co-owner of Mumbai City FC left no stones unturned as he bolstered his squad with high-value stars in the team as well as in the coaching staff recruiting former Manchester City, Leeds United, Plymouth Argyle and England U21 manager Peter Reid as the head coach. Reid will have lots of quality players like Subrata Pal, Lalrindika Ralte, Raju Gaikwad and other international stars to work with.
India’s No.1 shotstopper Subrata Pal is assured of a place between the sticks given his extraordinary goalkeeping skills. Captain Syed Rahim Nabi will be handling the left side of the pitch with Raju Gaikwad the preferred choice for right back. World Cup semi-finalist Manuel Freidrich and Czech centre-half Johan Letzelter will partner up in the centre of defence.
MCFC sure has the skill and trickery of their marquee signing Freddie Ljunberg but a calf injury sustained by the former Arsenal middie might force him out of the opening encounter. However, the outfit has tremendous depth in the squad with Dika(Lalrindika Ralte) , Jan Stohalnz, Tiago Ribeiro, Javi Fernandez and Ram Malik the likely options to start in the midfield.
Mumbai City FC will go into the match missing the services of their star striker Nicolas Anelka following a ban in his West Brom days. However, they do not lack any firepower upfront in the absence of the French with Sushil Kumar Singh, Abhishek Yadav, Diego Nadaya and the vastly talented young starlet Nadong Bhutia waiting to fill the void.
Final Verdict –
The inaugural match of the Indian Super League promises to be the trendsetter with 110,000 people in attendance at the Yuba Bharti Krirangan, Kolkata. Mumbai City FC seems to have the upper edge owing to their superior pre-season records but Atletico de Kolkata, spurred on by the home support, would look to set their season going.