I-League 2017: Minerva Punjab vs Mohun Bagan AC, Predicted XI
India’s premier club tournament is all set to start from tomorrow. Even though a lot of people will be debating about whether the I-League is the premier tournament anymore, officially the I-League is still the 'top-tier' league in India, according to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Although we have the ISL being recognised by the AFC and the winner awarded an AFC Cup spot, the winners of the I-League get the prestigious AFC Champions League playoff spot.
The I-League returns, with a new set of rules and some new teams. The major change in the rules is that teams in the I-League this season can sign up to 6 foreign players and field up to 5 foreigners in the starting XI.
We also have a couple of new teams in the league. With the inclusion of Gokulam Kerala FC, we have the league return to Kerala after a long gap. Meanwhile, the I-League reached the hills of Manipur for the first time, as NEROCA FC gained promotion. To add to that, the league is also set to make a return to the capital city of New Delhi, which will get to see some of the FIFA U17 World Cup stars in action once again, as the city will be the base for the reinstated team Indian Arrows.
The I-League kicks off with one of Asia's oldest clubs, Mohun Bagan travelling to Ludhiana to face Minerva Punjab. It is never easy to play in Punjab in the winters, and it will be interesting to see how the Mariners cope with the weather change.
On that note, lets take a look at how the two sides could set themselves up on the pitch.
Minerva Punjab FC
Minerva had a bittersweet I-League season last year. They were involved in some really exciting ties but for the most part of the season they were left acclimatising to the conditions of the big league.
This season, Minerva have had a good pre-season. They had a decent run in the Punjab State league and beat the likes of Bengaluru FC in a pre season friendly. They had recruited Spanish coach Juan Herrera for this season, but parted ways with the him midway through the pre-season, citing language barriers.
Minerva had a busy time during the transfer window, owner Ranjit Bajaj showing his displeasure at the Indian Arrows hijacking some of his prized academy products, like Jeakson Singh and Anwar Ali.
They have singed some really young foreign payers and that could play a big factor in deciding their future in the league.
The Ludhiana-based outfit would look to line up in the traditional 4-4-2 formation with the Bhutanese sensation Chencho Gyeltshen leading the line.
Minerva Punjab Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Arshdeep; Ramandeep, Toshiya, Gurjinder, Arshpreet; William Opoku, Aidara, Nadong, Chencho; Dmitri, Krishna
One half of the big two of Indian football, Mohun Bagan is a team that needs no introduction. Being last season’s runners-up Bagan would want to go the extra mile this season and win the league.
Mohun Bagan didn't have the best of seasons during the Calcutta Football League and lost out to arch-rivals East Bengal for the eighth year running. The Mariners didn’t have the best of the pre seasons either, as they lost all their game against the ISL teams and only managed wins against the local sides from Kolkata.
However, all said and done, Mohun Bagan undoubtedly have one of the best teams in the league and are one of the front runners to win it, along with East Bengal.
Mohun Bagan have recruited some fine foreign players for this season as they picked up last season’s top goal scorer Asier Dipanda, Aussie midfielder Diogo Ferreria, Japanese medio Yuta Kinowaki, striker Kromah, defender Kingsley and have retained their star winger Sony Norde, who will lead the team in this season’s I-League.
Mohun Bagan Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Shilton; Arijit Bagui, Kingsley, Kingshuk, Gurjinder; Chesterpaul Lyngdoh, Naro Hari Shreshtha, Shilton D'Silva; Norde, Dipanda, Kromah.
Minerva Punjab 1-3 Mohun Bagan
Keeping the weather and other factors in mind, Mohun Bagan are still the hot favourites to win this match, and anything other than a victory would be a huge disappointment for the Green and Maroons.