As the tides turn
Though at an early stage of the Indian Super League, tables seem to have turned and fate of a few teams has changed – powerhouses are craving for wins whereas few underdogs remain undefeated
With newcomers, Hyderabad and Odisha incurred into the Indian Super League (ISL), the battle for glory now involves 10 teams and if an i-League merger happens next year, the bars of Indian football would undoubtedly be raised. A month into the tournament, and there have already been many surprises given the current standing of the teams. Prominent clubs fell short of expectations and are now craving for a win under a lot of pressure. On the contrary, few underdogs have taken everyone by surprise and managed to keep their undefeated streak intact.
Bengaluru FC: The defending champions remain winless. The club which has previously played out five draws in the last two seasons combined, started this season with three consecutive draws. The arrival of Raphael Augusto and Ashique Kuruniyan has surely strengthened the club but Miku is being missed, who formed a lethal combination alongside Sunil Chhetri. "Miku is always going to be a big miss for any club because he is a very special talent," said Charles Cuadrat. While it is too early to judge but Miku's replacement, Manuel Onwu fell short of expectations and has not proved to be impactful leading the line. Bengaluru looks like an underachiever given their standings, but can't be underestimated. It's just a matter of key players up front stepping up for the defending champions.
Chennaiyin FC: The runner-ups of the 2017-18 season and a package of extraordinary players in Nerijus Valskis, Dragos Fietulescu, Rafael Crivellaro and Dhanpal Ganesh was expected to make a good start. Their last season was disappointing and nothing seems to have changed. Though unlucky, they are looking for a solitary win to lift the spirits. Chennaiyin FC's goal scoring drought was further extended to a third straight game and ATK took full advantage as they snatched a 1-0 win away in Chennai. "Tough to sit here after witnessing such a dominant game and coming away with nothing," said Chennaiyin coach, John Gregory.
The defense has been a big worry too. Eli Sabia and Lucian Goian are the only senior defenders available at bay. The quality in the midfield and moving across the ball has been a prime concern for the men from Chennai.
On the other hand, Jamshedpur FC and Northeast United FC have managed to surprise many with an exquisite display of grit and determination. Though it's an early stage, if they extend their gameplay towards the business end, they would undoubtedly be in the reckoning for title contention.
Jamshedpur FC: It's their third season of ISL and unlike the last two seasons they are in the top 3. In earlier seasons Jamshedpur was considered to be a mediocre club that stayed somewhere in the middle of the points table but this time they are playing ineffably. They have mixed youth and experience in their squad. While three youngsters from the Indian Arrows side, Jitendra Singh, Narender and Aniket Jadhav have joined the Men of Steel for this season. It has a depth of young talent who can lift the silverware.
Northeast United FC: Their previous seasons are not very satisfactory where it stayed at the bottom of the points table in two seasons. For now, they have not lost even a single match and is on 2nd position on the table with two wins and two draws. They are successful in proving their mettle in this season. Gone are the days when it was an underachiever, now the club has welcomed Robert Jarni and the Croatian has already made an impact. Though the squad is relatively new and they haven't played much together, the Highlanders have a great blend of overseas contingent and a young Indian brigade. Also, the marque signing in Ghanaian international Asamoah Gyan has eliminated the concerns of not having last season's star, Ogbeche. Away games have been a weak link which has been addressed so far this season and it won't be easy to beat the highlanders back in their den.
*the analysis has been made till the Kerala Blasters vs Odisha FC game on Friday
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