Indian Super League: Team profiles

Defending champions Bengaluru FC are the team to beat in the sixth edition of the Indian Super League. DH PHOTO

Here are the team profiles of the 10 teams vying for the top honours in the sixth edition of the Indian Super League, beginning from Sunday.

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC have set the bar. In the two editions, the Blues, besides topping the league round on both occasions, have won the title once and finished second in the other. This season, however, the Blues will be without influential Venezuelan striker Miku. Not an easy shoes to fill, coach Carles Cuadrat has brought in another Spanish forward Manuel Onwu and supplemented it by adding Ashique Kuruniyan to the attack. With top Indian players including Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Rahul Bheke and Udanta Singh already in their ranks, the club has roped in Raphael Augusto, formerly of Chennaiyin FC, and Eugeneson Lyngdoh. With such rich blend of foreign and local talents, BFC will be the favorites to retain the title.

Key player: Sunil Chhetri.

Coach: Carles Cuadrat.

 

FC Goa

Probably the most exciting team to watch in the league, FC Goa came agonisingly close to winning the ISL title last year. The Sergio Lobera-coached side have reached the final twice and made it to the play-offs on three occasions. They pumped in goals for fun last season, netting 36 times in 18 matches and Ferran Corominas, the last edition’s top-scorer, will once again be the player watch out for. The addition of Seiminlen Doungel adds a bit of physicality as well to the forward line. Goa’s strength has been their midfield, the engine behind that free-flowing style of play, operated by the likes of Edu Bedia, Brandon Fernandes, Ahmed Jahouh and Lenny Rodrigues. However, the Achilles heel for the Gaurs remains their lack of a clear plan B. Stop them playing, get them out of their comfort zone and the opponents always have a chance. Goa will again be one of the favourites.

Key player: Ferran Corominas.

Coach: Sergio Lobero.

 

Jamshedpur FC

Jamshedpur FC have finished fifth twice, coming tantalisingly close to making it to the play-offs in the past two seasons. Much of this was down to their inability to finish off games in the closing stages. New Spanish coach Antonio Iriondo has brought in four Spanish players – Francisco Medina Luna aka Piti, Aitor Monroy, Noe Acosta and Sergio Castel. Piti, 38, has the La Liga experience and he is expected to provide the creative spark in the midfield along with pacy Isaac Vanmalsawma. They’ve also roped in forward CK Vineeth, who is looking to find his shooting boots again. Indian youngsters Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Narender Gahlot have also joined the side. At the back, Spaniard Jose Luis Espinosa, also know as Tiri, is will lead the defence.

Key player: CK Vineeth

Coach: Antonio Iriondo.

 

Kerala Blasters FC

After the last season’s horror show that saw them finish ninth in the table and coach David James getting the sack midway, Kerala Blasters will be determined to put on a good show. Coach Eelco Schattorie, who took NorthEast United FC to the play-offs, has brought in Bartholomew Ogbeche, who scored 12 goals last year for the coach. Having signed their foreign players poorly, they have gone for players who have experience in India except for Cameroonian attacker Raphael Eric Messi Bouli. The arrival of Spanish duo Mario Arques and Sergio Cidoncha alongside Sahal Abdul Samad will add more creativity in midfield. However, they do have a concern at the back. With Sandesh Jhingan out injured, the onus falls on Dutchman Gianni Zuiverloon and Brazilian Jairo Rodriguez. 

Key player: Sahal Abdul Samad.

Coach: Eelco Schattorie.

 

NorthEast United FC

NorthEast United made it to the play-offs for the first time in their history last season under Schattorie. But they have lost their coach and captain Ogbeche to rivals while influential midfielder Federico Gallego is set to miss considerable time due to injury. Croatian Robert Jarni is the new coach and World Cupper Asamoah Gyan has come in to replace Ogbeche. Up front, the Ghanian is likely to combine with Argentine Maximiliano Barreiro and Uruguayan Martin Chavesh. Milan Singh has returned and is expected to feature alongside Greek Panagiotis Triadis and Colombian Jose Leudo. Defence is a worry for NEUFC, who conceded as many as 18 goals last season. Croatian Mislav Komorski and Dutchman Kai Heerings will be entrusted with the task for protecting their rearguard. 

Key player: Asamoah Gyan.

Coach: Robert Jarni.

 

Chennaiyin FC

Two-time champions Chennaiyin FC only has one way to go, up. Having finished last in the league last season, a good Super Cup run saved coach John Gregory's job. The ‘Super Machans' have signed nine new players including six foreigners. New recruit Brazilian Rafael Crivellaro will join Anirudh Thapa and Romanian Dragos Firtulescu in the midfield while young Indian talent Lallianzuala Chhangte will provide much-needed pace. The forward line comprises of seasoned Jeje Lalpekhlua with Rahim A and Lithuanian Nerijus Valskis. At the back, Brazilian centre back Eli Sabia is expected to form a solid partnership with Lucian Goian of Romania.

Key player: Anirudh Thapa

Coach: John Gregory.

 

ATK

ATK have brought back Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas, under whom they won the title in the inaugural edition. In the previous edition, the Kolkata outfit couldn’t make the play-offs. Now heading into the sixth edition, they have recruited top foreign talents including Fijian forward Roy Krishna, who was the top-scorer at Wellington Phoenix in the Australian A-League with 19 goals from 27 matches. Jobby Justin has also arrived from East Bengal. They’ve also roped in winger Michael Soosairaj, one of the most influential players for Jamshedpur FC last year. He is expected to feature in the company of Javi Hernandez, Pronay Halder and Edu Garcia. John Johnson and Anas Edathodika will man the backline.

Key player: Roy Krishna.

Coach: Antonio Lopez Habas.

 

Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City had a strong season, finishing third in the table with 30 points from 18 games, and seem to have invested well in their team to go the next step. They added India international Rowllin Borges to the midfield that already boasts of Portuguese Paulo Machado. Croatian Mato Grgic looks like an upgrade from Goian in the defence. He is expected to pair up with Pratik Choudhari and India’s U-17 World Cupper Anwar Ali. The African duo of Modou Sougou, the last year’s top scorer with 12 goals, and Amine Chermiti, former Marseille striker, will lead the attack. At the goal, Jorge Costa’s side have a quality shot-stopper in Amrinder Singh.

Key player: Paulo Machado.

Coach: Jorge Costa.

 

Hyderabad FC

Pune City FC rechristened as Hyderabad FC after being forced to shift its base due to financial issues, have former Hull City manager Phil Brown at the helm. Brown, known for his defensive solidity, will rely on India international Adil Khan, Englishman Matthew Kilgallon and Spaniard Rafael Lopez Gomez, to keep attackers at bay. They have retained the services of Austrian Marko Stankovic, a vital cog in the midfield. He is expected partner with Spaniard Nestor Jesus Benitez. The attack will be led by the crafty Marcelinho. Hyderabad also have Alwyn George and young prospect in Deependra Negi and Abhishek Halder.

Key player: Marcelinho Leite Pereira.

Coach: Phil Brown.

 

Odisha FC

Odisha FC has come in place of the now-defunct Delhi Dynamos, another casualty of economics. The Josep Gombau’s core squad largely resembles last year’s Delhi team. However, they have also roped in midfielder Xisco Fernandez from Bengaluru FC, Argentine Martin Guedes and Spanish centre back Carlos Javier Delgado to bolster their title ambitions. Midfield holds the key for Odisha. Marcos Tebar, who was in fine form last season, along with Xisco will definitely give them an edge. Gaurav Bora and Delgado will handle the defence while Aridane Santana and Daniel Lalhlimpuia will be in the attack.

Key player: Marcos Tebar.

Coach: Josep Gombau.

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