Entering their third season in the Indian Super League, Jamshedpur FC will finally be looking to make their first appearance in the semifinals in the sixth edition of the competition, that kicks off on Sunday.
The TATA Steel-owned club have finished fifth in each of their previous seasons in the ISL, missing out on the playoffs by four points to FC Pune City in their debut season in 2017-18, and two points in 2018-19 to NorthEast United.
Jamshedpur have a new manager once again, with Antonio Iriondo replacing Cesar Ferrando at the helm.
They have also added some serious experience to their squad, with defender Keegan Pereira and forward CK Vineeth being the key Indian additions to their squad.
As it did last season, the foreign contingent has a distinct foreign flavour to it, with the additions of Piti, Sergio Castel, Aitor Monroy and Noe Acosta.
The squad has six foreigners, with only midfielder Memo Moura, who is entering his third season with the club, not a Spaniard. Talismanic captain and centre-back Tiri has also extended his stay with Jamshedpur for a third season, like Memo.
Jamshedpur FC Squad
The addition of Vineeth seems like one that was hugely necessary. Despite the presence of young Indian attackers like Farukh Choudhary and Sumeet Passi, Jamshedpur were hugely dependent on their foreigners like Sergio Cidoncha, Mario Arques and Pablo Morgado for their goals last season.
Vineeth could correct that this term, given the natural goal-scorer that he is. Jamshedpur also signed four players from the Indian Arrows set-up, in addition to young Indian goalkeeper Niraj Kumar, who impressed one and all at last season AFC Asian U-16 championship.
Aniket Jadhav, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Jitendra Singh and Narender Gehlot have all signed up for Jamshedpur, with creative midfielder Isaac Vanmalsawma and centre-back Joyner Lourenco also joining.
Jamshedpur FC Squad
Goalkeepers: Subrata Paul, Rafique Ali Sardar, Amrit Gope, Niraj Kumar
Defenders: Tiri, Joyner Lourenco, Narendar Gehlot, Jitendra Singh, Augustin Fernandes, Robin Gurung, Keegan Pereira, Karan Amin
Midfielders: Memo, Aitor Monroy, Noe Acosta, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Bikash Jairu, Mobashir Rahman, Isaac Vanmalsawma
Forwards: Sergio Castel, Piti, CK Vineeth, Farukh Choudhary, Sumeet Passi, Aniket Jadhav
Antonio Iriondo has replaced Cesar Ferrando for this season, and he will look to become the first Jamshedpur manager to lead the side into the semifinal.
Over a managerial career that has now spanned 27 years, the 65-year-old Spaniard has spent the majority of his time in the Spanish Segunda Division B managing clubs like CD Toledo, San Fernando CD, and CF Rayo Majadahonda. He was in charge of La Liga side Rayo Vallecano, but managed only less than a year with them.
With some key players like Mario Arques, Sergio Cidoncha and Michael Soosairaj leaving Jamshedpur for other ISL sides, Iriondo needs a quick solution to get Jamshedpur scoring more goals. He has a huge Spanish contingent with him though, so that must be a big advantage.
It is difficult to see how Jamshedpur have managed to get up with the likes of Bengaluru FC and FC Goa, to be a shoo-in for the playoffs.
They also have a number of young Indian players ready to make their ISL debuts this season. Of course, the foreign contingent is experienced and there is a good mix, but can the likes of Amarjit and Narendar keep their cool in an environment as challenging - both physically and mentally - as the ISL?
Jamshedpur will be in the mix for the playoffs, but whether they get there or another near-miss awaits, will depend on whether their strikers can put the ball in the back of the net with regularity.Published 18 Oct 2019, 01:02 IST