HASC’s coach Muralidharan and his BEML counterpart Dada Peer will get a chance to realise their dreams when the I-League second division (Group A) tournament kicks off here at the Karnataka State Football Association stadium on Saturday.
The challenge for the City teams would be getting past five other teams from Kerala who complete the seven-team line-up in the group.
While three of them may be new to national-level football, former I-League participants and Kerala Super Division champions State Bank of Travancore and Titanium Travancore have the resources to stretch the home sides.
“This tournament could make a big difference for us,” Peer told Deccan Herald. “Apart from HASC and us, I feel SBT and Titanium Travancore are among ones to watch out for. However, our squad has shaped up well over the recent months and we are very confident of qualifying for the second round,” added Peer, who guided BEML to the Puttiah Memorial title last November.
Golden Threads and SBT play the opener on Saturday with Chandini FC taking on Malabar United later while Titanium will launch their campaign on Sunday against Malabar United.
Coming into the tournament following their success at the Malayala Manaroma Gold Cup last December, Muralidharan felt the experience of playing the Kerala outfits would stand his team in good stead. “Having played and beaten SBT in the Manorama Gold Cup semifinal en route to our victory, we are quite confident of making it to the second round.
“The side has 60-40 ratio of youth and experience and with home support behind us, the boys are really charged up,” said Muralidharan, whose side are the reigning Bangalore champions.
Xavier to lead
To be led by the seasoned Xavier Vijaykumar, HASC have roped in State under-19 skipper Shankar as a creative midfield option along with Vishal and Baichung Bhutia’s cousin Lipza.
Their only concern is the fitness of Bimal Minz, who has recovered from a jaw fracture and has started training.
BEML have no such worries and will be skippered by former HASC star RC Prakash with Gautam Debnath and Sharat brought on loan from Vasco and DYSS, respectively.