India’s FA Cup starts tomorrow with two matches each in Kochi and Manjeri. Here is Sportskeeda’s preview.
Group A fixtures
Churchill Brothers vs United SC (16:00; LIVE on Ten Action)
Two teams who have had problems both on and off the pitch face off in this Group A opener and neutrals would be hoping that it is a repeat of the five-goal thriller that they played out in the I-League earlier in the season. Churchill Brothers only have two foreigners available for this tournament with Anthony Wolfe set for his debut in Indian football while sponsorless United SC will be without their dependable Nigerian centre-back Bello Rassaq due to injury. Clearly both sides could do with a winning start and whoever gets it will stand a great chance of progressing to the semis.
Key Battle: Lalkamal Bhowmick – Lenny Rodrigues
This midfield battle could turn out to be pivotal as each player is capable of dictating the play. They are two of the finest midfielders in the country but haven’t had a great season so far for different reasons. While Lalkamal has been mostly injured, Lenny has been inconsistent so both will be eager to rediscover their best form in this tournament.
Pune FC vs Eagles FC (19:00; LIVE on Ten Action)
The group’s second game of the day sees hosts Eagles in action against India’s Asian Champions League representatives Pune FC. Kerala’s Eagles are making their debut appearance in this tournament and they will be determined to make a good first impression in front of the locals. But Stanely Rozario’s side couldn’t have wished for a tougher opponent than Pune FC as the Red Lizards are currently third in the I-League table and the only team in this group with four foreigners in their squad. All the pressure will be on Pune as they are not only the favourites for this fixture but also the group.
Key Battle: Riga Mustapha – Charles Dzisah
Pune will certainly enjoy a lot of possession but the absence of a genuine centre forward could become a problem if they don’t find an early goal. The Kerala side will surely look to defend in numbers and frustrate Mike Snoei’s side so makeshift striker Mustapha will have to be clinical and get the better of Eagles centre-back Dzisah, who has played for Viva Kerala in the I-League previously.
Group D fixtures
Dempo vs Bhowanipore (Kickoff: 17:00)
The other Federation Cup debutant on the opening day is modest Kolkata outfit Bhowanipore and they start their campaign against a bolstered Dempo team. Arthur Papas’ side has been boosted by the additions of Sanju Pradhan, Tolgay Ozbey and Zohib Islam Amiri. The first two of those signings have won this competition with East Bengal while Amiri led Afghanistan to SAFF Championship success last year. The only proven winner Bhowanipore had in their squad was the legendary Jose Barreto but he is ruled out due to injury so anything other than a Dempo win would be one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history.
Key Battle: Simon Colosimo – Daniel Bidemi
Bhowanipore are expected to have a defensive approach as they don’t have the quality to match Dempo’s attacking resources but the Kolkata club still have a goal threat in Daniel. Despite being stronger on paper, Dempo have a bit of inexperience at the back so former Australian Olympian Colosimo will have to take extra responsibility and keep a close eye on the Nigerian.
Mohammedan Sporting vs United Sikkim (Kickoff: 19:30)
The other Group D fixture is an even bigger mismatch both in terms of history and current status. Two-time winners Mohammedan Sporting are one of the darkhorses for the title and unlike the early stages of the season their team has suddenly found the right balance under new coach Sanjoy Sen. United Sikkim’s newly-appointed coach Ekendra Singh faces a near impossible task as the squad was only completed recently and they haven’t had any competitive preparation. Two years ago United Sikkim gained I-League promotion at the expense of Mohammedan Sporting so the Kolkata giants will be seeking some revenge as well and only a miracle can stop them from achieving the same.
Key Battle: United Sikkim goalkeeper – Mohammedan Sporting’s outfield players
A non-stop onslaught is expected on the United Sikkim goal and thus their keeper would certainly have to produce a man-of-the match display if the Bhaichung Bhutia-owned club want to get any result from this game. They have a couple of 21-year-old custodians at their disposal so that should give Mohammedan more confidence but the black and whites must be clinical.Published 13 Jan 2014, 18:23 IST