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ISL 2018-19: Sergio Lobera – Ferran Corominas’ red card is bad news for FC Goa – football news

FC Goa head coach Sergio Lobera felt that Ferran Corominas’ rash challenge on Marko Stankovic wouldn’t have been punished with a red card had Diego Carlos not been sent off for a similar offence a few minutes earlier. 

The Gaurs romped to a 4-2 win over FC Pune City in their Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday. Corominas scored a brace but saw red for a high-footed challenge on Stankovic late in the second-half. Pune City’s Diego Carlos received the marching orders for a horrible foul on Seriton Fernandes.  

“Evidently, that’s bad news for us because we are losing a player who has been good for us. In my opinion, had the other team (FC Pune City’s Diego Carlos) not received a red card, with all respect to the referees (Pranjal Banerjee), I don’t think it would have been a red card for Coro either,” Lobera opined. 

Sergio Lobera FC Goa ISL 4 2017/2018

The red card did not stop the coach from applauding his team’s effort. “I’m happy with the performance. We managed to score nine goals in two games. We have played an open game today which game the other team a lot of opportunities. The two goals that they scored were tiny little mistakes that we made.”

FC Goa were constantly knocking on the doors of Pune City’s defence and Lobera is pleased with this aspect of his team’s gameplay. 

“When we go out to play, the idea is always an attacking game. Ultimately a coach has to find the best possible men and do the best possible thing out there. So it’s not about liking or not liking (the reputation). It’s about ensuring that everything is done in the best possible manner. 

“Marcelinho and (Emiliano) Alfaro have already shown their quality. It’s true that they created a lot of chances but we created a lot more than them. We scored four (goals) and ultimately football is all about getting those opportunities and taking them.”
 

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ISL 2018-19: No sweat Bengaluru, Pune City look utterly lost – football news

If anybody expected a competitive match at the Balewadi Stadium, they were left with frustration and disappointment.

FC Pune City’s poor run of form in the fifth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) continued as they succumbed to a 0-3 defeat against Bengaluru FC on Monday.

After three matches, Pune have just one point and are currently placed ninth on the table. 

The Stallions recruited a star-studded squad this season. Former Delhi Dynamos coach Miguel Angel Portugal was brought on board despite Delhi Dynamos finishing eighth under the Spaniard last season. 

After his Delhi exit, Miguel Portugal had blamed the Lions ‘ lack of transfer budgets as one of the reasons for poor results. Now at Pune City, which has several star foreign players, Portugal is left with no excuses. 

The Stallions were completely outclassed by Bengaluru who did not have to be at their best to claim an easy 3-0 victory away from home.

Pune City’s major chances came through free-kicks. Marcelinho’s curling free-kick aimed at the top corner was brilliantly stopped by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the first-half. The Brazilian had another free-kick saved towards the end but had a quiet match otherwise and looked nothing like the player that led the charge for Pune City’s play-off qualification last season under Ranko Popovic.

FC Pune City vs Bengaluru FC ISL 2018-19

Portugal is known to advocate the Spanish style of football. But his teams in ISL have played anything but that. Pune City exchanged square passes and then sent crosses from the wings. The same happened at Delhi Dynamos and now at Pune, there has not been a notable difference in his approach. 

Portugal has a lot of work to do to turn things around if he does not want a repeat of last season’s first-half with Delhi Dynamos. By the time the Lions learned his methods, play-off had turned into a distant dream. 

Carles Cuadrat’s side stuck to their basics and did not have to sweat to pick up three points. While the use of Harmanjot Khabra in midfield leaves a lot to be desired, the return of Dimas Delgado into the first-team fold was a welcome boost. 

The midfield metronome kept Bengaluru ticking and knew when and where to pass every single time he received the ball. He assisted Sunil Chhetri’s opening goal with a wonderful cross-field diagonal over the top of the defence and there was a delightful lobbed through-ball for Miku later in the match that summarised his ability on the ball. 

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, fresh off his stunning performance for India against China, was brilliant when called into action. Both Miku and Sunil Chhetri will be disappointed not to have scored more, not because they wasted chances but Pune City looked utterly disorganized and were available for a hammering. 

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ISL 2018-19: Onus on FC Pune City to take the fight to Bengaluru FC – football news

It might still be early days in the fifth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) but the pressure is on FC Pune City after a stuttering start to their campaign.

Having notched up their maiden playoff appearance last season, the Stallions were pegged to go far this time, especially on the back of retaining their two most prolific attackers in Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro.

Having parted ways with Ranko Popovic, Pune roped in former Delhi Dynamos coach Miguel Angel Portugal to guide the ship for the fifth edition. The Spaniard oversaw a disastrous first-half of Delhi’s campaign last season before a minor turnaround towards the end lifted them to the eighth spot on the table.

The possession-based style that Portugal brought to the Dynamos along with the confidence he bestowed on young Indian talents like Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vinit Rai and Nandhakumar Sekar was perhaps what attracted Pune management to rope him in.

The move did make sense with the Stallions retaining the core of their domestic talents in the form of Ashique Kuruniyan, Sarthak Golui, Rohit Kumar and Vishal Kaith.

Two matches into their latest campaign, Pune find themselves second from last in the table with just a solitary point to show for their efforts. Portugal’s men started their campaign at the home of the Spaniard’s former club and were lucky to come away with a point after being dominated for the majority of the game.

In the second game against Maharashtra rivals Mumbai City, two first-half goals from the Islanders were enough to quell any Pune response in the second period.

It is true that the Stallions have sorely missed the wizardry of Marcelinho with the Brazilian unavailable in the clash against Delhi due to his suspension being carried over from last season’s Super Cup. The forward only started on the bench in the loss to Mumbai, coming on in the second half to induce some much-needed urgency for Portugal’s men.

In both of Pune’s games so far, Portugal’s men have started brightly before fading away for the majority of the game. They have taken their sweet time to wake up again with the scoreboard pressure reflecting in their much improved second-half performances.

Pune are bearing all the hallmarks of Delhi’s first-half campaign last season. The side have enjoyed the majority of the possession as is Portugal’s mantra and have looked to defend with a high line. Just like the Dynamos were at this time of the year last season, Pune too have been toothless in the final third.

Portugal’s philosophy took some time to be in ingrained in Delhi’s system last season and a familiar script seems to be following him this time around too. By the time the league came to an end last season, Delhi’s system had become much more fluid and pleasing on the eye with the team bearing the stamp of a well-drilled unit.

That has not been the case so far for Pune, but, with the stakes as high as ever, the side cannot afford to make the same mistakes Delhi were guilty of last season. Time is of the essence for Pune if they want to remain in contention for a second consecutive playoff appearance and their next test promises to be crucial. 

Back in the comforts of home, Pune welcome last season’s runner-up Bengaluru next and another defeat could very well derail their campaign before it has even taken flight. Also, last season, Bengaluru eliminated Pune in the play-offs. In four attempts, Pune could not beat Bengaluru at all in the 2017-18 season. 

Lack of goals has been a killer for Pune so far with Diego Carlos’ equaliser against Delhi the only one the side have scored so far. Marcelinho seems a certainty to start the clash after his exciting cameo against Mumbai and the onus will very much be on Pune to take the attack to Bengaluru. 

Marko Stankovic, who is very important for Pune in midfield, will be expected to start as well. 

They cannot afford another sluggish opening 45 minutes nor can they afford to take their time to be jolted into action. The Blues are bound to come all guns blazing and it will be up to the home side to make sure they make the best use of their home advantage.

Falling behind in the pecking order early into the season can have a domino effect on the rest of the campaign as Portugal himself knows that all too well. 

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ISL 2018-19: FC Pune City’s Iain Hume – Foreign players need a broad mindset to play in India – football news

Iain Hume, roped in by FC Pune City for the fifth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL), ended up as the only unregistered foreigner in the squad.

The Canadian having suffered a serious knee injury in the second half of last season at Kerala Blasters. However, Pune City chose to sign him and seven other foreigners but left him out of the final squad for the ISL. 

Hume was expected to recover in a span of 12-14 weeks at the time of signing the deal with the Pune outfit in August. It is unclear who Pune City might drop in case they want to register Hume for the latter stages, but the former ATK forward has expressed his desire to contribute to the current side.

“My aim right now is to get fit. Honestly, I’m not looking past tomorrow’s training. I’m confident in the team and I’m always going to be confident in myself. So if I can’t get in the team because the strikers are scoring goals, I’m fine with that. 

“If I can get back in the team when I get fit and the strikers are scoring goals, and if I can contribute in any way, I’m sure it’s going to help the team as well,” he told GBP Sports .

Marko Stankovic Marcelinho NorthEast United FC FC Pune City ISL 4 2017/2018

Hume has been impressed with his team-mates at FC Pune City and believes that the club has the right mixture of youth and experience. The former ATK striker also highlighted the importance of having a few experienced players in the squad.

“Marcelinho has been a great player in the ISL and so has (Emiliano) Alfaro. They have been two of the stand out strikers in the league along with myself,” he continued.

“If I can join in with these guys, that will be great. Obviously, Marko Stankovic is still quite young (32). Matt Mills is 32-years-old. Jonathan Vila and Martin Diaz are both around 30 (32 and 30 respectively). Although people may say that we have old foreigners, we don’t. 31 is not old all. If you say that, I must tell you that when I came over to Kerala Blasters in season one I was 30, I was old!

“At Pune, we have a very good mixture of youth and experience. We have the Indian players in our squad, most of whom are young. If you imagine bringing in five or six 22-year-old foreigners, who is going to lead? Honestly, this is the first time in my career that I am the oldest in the squad, which is scary,” he confessed.

The former Leicester City player also had a piece of advice to share for the young overseas footballers looking to join the ISL bandwagon.

“The thing is that everyone will look at me and say ‘he is an older foreigner’. I wasn’t when I came here. I’m 34-years-old and I’m loving playing football. There shouldn’t be any question until what draws me in. At the end of the day, I’m loving playing football. You get a lot of younger footballers who don’t love it – they do it as a job because that’s what they are good at. I’m the opposite. I’m decent at it but I’ve been successful because I love it. And I work harder for being successful.

“To anybody (foreigners) who wants to come here, don’t come out here close-minded. If you’re open to changes and you have a broad mindset, feel free. It’s a great place to come and enjoy football. The fans are, for the most part, very enthusiastic and heartwarming. I have been fortunate to be in the two cities (Kerala and Kolkata) who are potentially the most football loving in the country, along with Goa.

“India is a baby in world football. It’s learning, it’s growing and progressing year in and year out. That’s something I’m mentally proud of being involved in from the start of the ISL until now. Honestly, I’d love to see how far it will go in the next 10-or-15 years,” he concluded.

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What would ISL clubs wish for during international break? – football news

The fifth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) has entered its first international break. 

After nine matches, five teams are on four points each at the top of the table, with FC Goa leading the pack due to a higher tally of goals scored. All teams except Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City have played two matches. Chennaiyin and ATK are the only teams yet open their account. 

The ISL will return on October 17 but until then, it is a period for the players and coaches who are not involved with their national teams to take a breather and analyze the key areas for improvement. Let’s take a look at what the 10 ISL clubs will wish for when the league resumes after the break:


ATK – Team Chemistry


ATK NorthEast United ISL

Under Steve Coppell, ATK have looked lethargic and disorganized. After roping in proven campaigners like John Johnson, Gerson, Manuel Lanzarote and Kalu Uche, a revamped ATK has struggled to fit everyone into the team and get going. 

The English coach admittedly had little say in the player recruitment and with his defence-first approach, the attack-minded players look out of place in the team. 


Bengaluru FC – A fully fit Dimas Delgado


Ever since the season started for Bengaluru FC with the AFC Cup fixtures against Altyn Asyr, Dimas Delgado’s absence has been felt. The Spanish midfielder was instrumental in pulling the strings and exerting dominance in the middle of the pitch under Albert Roca last season. 

Dimas Delgado Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru’s style of play badly needs a midfield controller like Delgado. He returned to the pitch in the second-half against Jamshedpur after a long-term injury layoff. But Cuadrat and co. will be hoping to see a fully fit Dimas Delgado raring to go when the league resumes. In his absence, Bengaluru FC never really controlled the games, especially the two opening ISL matches at home. 


Chennaiyin FC – Goals and a better midfield


Anirudh Thapa FC Goa Chennaiyin FC ISL

A strong midfield was a vital component of Chennaiyin’s success last season. The likes of Dhanpal Ganesh, Bikramjit Singh, Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh did a phenomenal job as the team journeyed to the title but their campaign has begun on a sour note. They are yet to earn a point after two defeats in the first two games and the midfield has been awful to say the least.

With Dhanpal out injured for the first half of the season, both Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh will be expected to step up in the centre of the park after back-to-back dire displays. Adding insult to injury, Jeje Lalpekhlua looked isolated and without service to get going in front of the goal. 


Delhi Dynamos – A cure for profligacy


Delhi Dynamos vs Pune City ISL 2018/19

The Lions have played just one game (1-1 vs Pune City) but there are no excuses for dropping two points despite creating plenty of chances to put the game to bed. A late equaliser allowed FC Pune City to earn a point that did not look possible for most of the game. 

The Dynamos cannot afford to waste chances. Their only goal in the game came from a speculative long-range effort by Rana Gharami that swung in the air and landed in the net to turn out to be an absolute belter. 


FC Goa – Clean Sheets


Sergio Lobera’s side kept just two clean sheets in 20 matches last season. While their strategy has been to outscore the opposition, defending is an important part of any team’s chase for the title. The Gaurs allowed NorthEast United to come back and equalise after having taking the lead twice. They also allowed Eli Sabia to score a late header in their 3-1 win over Chennaiyin FC.

Ralte Kattimani FC Goa

Lobera chose to start both their games with 18-year-old Mohammad Nawaz who had his moments under the bar but is still some way off from being a convincing presence under the bar. FC Goa have stuck to their attacking football under Lobera but a strong defence could be the difference between a semi-final exit and a title win.


FC Pune City – Return of Marcelinho and midfield dynamics


Marcelinho NorthEast United FC FC Pune City ISL 4 2017/2018

FC Pune City’s talisman Marcelinho was suspended for their season opener against Delhi Dynamos for the red card he picked up in their Super Cup exit against Shillong Lajong. Pune City struggled to get on the front foot for the majority of the game and lacked a focal point in attack. The Brazilian’s return to the starting lineup will be a big boost to the team and will provide much-needed flair in attack. 

Jonathan Vila, Marko Stankovic and Adil Khan have failed to boss the midfield so far and a better dynamics amongst the trio will be expected after the break. 
 


Jamshedpur FC – Better support for Tiri


Jamshedpur FC skipper Tiri has been a one-man-army at the back for Cesar Ferrando’s side in the first two games. Against Bengaluru FC, the Spanish defender put in vital blocks and last-ditch tackles to keep the Men of Steel in the game. Raju Gaikwad, in particular, has been sub-par. 

Fellow defenders in the side to step up their game to support the skipper. Defending requires teamwork and coordination which Cesar Ferrando will demand from his side once the league season resumes. 

 


Kerala Blasters – Improvement at home


The last time Kerala Blasters reached the finals, they had won six and lost just one match in Kochi. Last season, Blasters recorded a poor home run (a mere two wins in nine games) and endured a frustrating campaign. 

Kochi U17 World Cup

And after a 2-0 win against ATK in the season opener, Blasters fell to a last-minute stunner by Mumbai City’s Pranjal Bhumij and dropped two points at home. Kerala Blasters have recently struggled to win matches in front of their home crowd. For a team vying for the title, this is unacceptable and needs to change.  


Mumbai City – Foreign players to step up 


Mumbai City Jamshedpur FC ISL

The foreign contingent of Mumbai City are yet to make an impact in ISL after the first two rounds. The likes of Rafael Bastos and Moudou Sougou have completely gone off the radar despite playing both their first two matches. Matias Mirabaje and Paulo Machado are yet to exert any influence in the Islanders’ proceedings on the pitch. 

Given their strength on paper, Jorge Costa will demand improvement from these players after the break.


NorthEast United – Better output from wide players


ATK NorthEast United ISL

The Highlanders will wish for a better output from wide areas so as to unlock the goalscorer in Bartholomew Ogbeche. The former PSG man has struggled for service from both the centre and wide areas of the field but the immediate concern will be the displays of wingers Redeem Tlang and Nikhil Kadam. 

They will also need better support from their full-backs, namely Keegan Pereira, Robert Lalthlamuana and Reagan Singh. Much will be expected from them if the Highlanders are to deliver upon the early promise offered. 

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ISL 2018-19: Josep Gombau – We should have got a penalty – football news

Delhi Dynamos started their Indian Super League (ISL) season five with a 1-1 draw against FC Pune City on Wednesday evening at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi.

A wonder strike from Rana Gharami handed Delhi the lead in the first half but Diego Carlos’ late equaliser sealed a point for the visitors.

On naming Rana Gharami ahead of Martin Crespi in defence, Dynamos coach Josep Gombau said, “It is a long league. We have a lot of matches. So I decided to field Gianni (Zuiverloon) and Rana (Gharami) as central defenders. (Martin) Crespi is obviously a very good player and he will have his chances as the season progresses. In the next few weeks, From October 17th onwards we have continuous matches. So everybody will get chances. I am satisfied with Gianni and Rana’s performance.”

On asked if he was disappointed by the draw, Gombau replied, “In the first 20 minutes, we didn’t play to our potential. But after that we played well. From the beginning of the second half, we had the control of the game. We created a lot of chances. In football, if you don’t score in one transition then the other team can come at you and this is what happened. We got chances to score the second goal but did not take it. And Pune also got chances and they scored. It was a good game for the spectators. I am happy with the result.”

The Spaniard, however, rued midfielder Bikramjeet Singh’s injury. He said, “Bikramjeet (Singh) is a big loss for us. It is bad when you lose a player due to injury.”

Delhi striker Andrija Kaluderovic put in an underwhelming performance and the former Barcelona ‘B’ coach chose to see the positives. “He (Adrija Kaluderovic) is a striker and people always measure a striker’s performance with goals. I think he did well and worked a lot. He had a couple of chances to score and missed. This happens. Next week, if he has the chances he will score.”

He further added, “Kaluderovic also created chances. I am satisfied with everyone’s performance. We dominated in the second half.

“In the last minute, I thought it was a penalty. It was a handball inside the penalty box. It should have been a penalty.

“I’ll take the positives from this match and analyse and work hard so that the next game is even better.”

 

 

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ISL 2018-19: Miguel Portugal taunts Delhi Dynamos – ‘At Pune City, we don’t have the worst budget’ – football news

FC Pune City head coach Miguel Angel Portugal believes his team can top the league table in the fifth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL)

The Spanish coach, who left his position as head coach of Delhi Dynamos in the summer, had bemoaned his former club’s transfer budget . At his new club, Portugal feels he has managed to make use of the transfer window much better,

The Stallions will take on the Lions in their first ISL match of the new season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi on Wednesday. 

“For me, it is a pleasure to be back in Delhi but now I am the opponent. I had good memories in Delhi,” Portugal said. 

“Last season, we had the worst budget (at Delhi Dynamos). And now in Pune, we have a (better) budget.  It is very important that you have the best budget and you buy the best players.

Delhi Dynamos Kerala Blasters Miguel Portugal

“At Pune (City), we don’t have the worst budget so we can fight for the first position. It is very difficult to get the first position, right? Our objective is to maintain the same position (from last season) or better.”

Midfielder Marcos Tebar left Pune City for Delhi Dynamos for the fifth season of ISL and on his departure, the newly appointed coach joked, “He doesn’t want to play with me (laughs). I came to Delhi, he went to Pune. I came to Pune and he went to Delhi.

“He played for me at Castilla at Real Madrid when he was 18 years old. He is a good player,” the former Real Madrid Castilla coach added. 

Portugal prefers possession-based football with an intent to score goals. He will be up against Josep Gombau’s team that prefers a similar style of play.

“I think it will be a good match. The possession is very important. But what is more important is finishing. Possession should be to win the match. My philosophy is to have the ball in the right area and to get to the (dangerous) areas and finish.”

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ISL 2018-19: FC Pune City’s Emiliano Alfaro – We will give our best, I promise – football news

Emiliano Alfaro was the highest goal scorer for FC Pune City last season in the Indian Super League (ISL) as he netted nine times in 19 matches. He played a very important role in Pune reaching the playoffs for the first time since the inception of the league.

The Uruguayan striker decided to stay at the club for one more season and is planning to go a step further from what they achieved last season in ISL.

Alfaro suggested that they are not under any pressure to replicate their performance from last season. He said, “I don’t think there is any pressure. We have a good team and a good coaching staff. Our target is to reach the semifinals first. We have to go step-by-step. We will give our best, I promise.”

Pune City parted ways with Serbian coach Ranko Popovic at the end of last season and replaced him with Spanish coach Miguel Angel Portugal who was in charge of Delhi Dynamos last season.

Popovic FC Pune City

When asked about the change in personnel at the helm, he replied, “This is part of our job. This happens in football. One season you are under one coach and then again, another season under a new coach. You have to adjust and work hard to understand the philosophy of a new coach.”

The South American forward also mentioned that the weather in India does not bother him anymore as it used to during his first season.

“It was difficult initially as the cultures are totally different. But now there is no problem. I started playing for NorthEast United in 2016. I have played in Dubai also and the weather there is quite similar to India. So that is not a problem for me,” said the Pune City striker.

On the general standard and improvement of Indian players over the years in ISL, Alfaro opined, “I can see so many young talents are coming in. I like this. There are some very good players in Pune City. The players try to improve. They listen and try to understand everything from what the experienced players share.”

 

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ISL 2018-19: Marcelinho: FC Pune City have the best foreigners in the league – football news

Marcelo Leite Pereira, or Marcelinho, is all set for his second year at FC Pune City, his third in the Indian Super League (ISL). He scored eight goals last season for the Stallions, just two short of his Golden Boot-winning tally with Delhi Dynamos in 2016.

Marcelinho feels that every team needs a right combination, much like the partnerships he enjoyed with Florent Malouda (at Delhi Dynamos) and Emiliano Alfaro (FC Pune City).

“Combination for me is very important. Nobody can do anything alone. I was very lucky to play with Malouda earlier and Alfaro last season. I hope it continues like this because it is very important for two players to share the responsibility. You can see how (FC) Goa had the combination between Ferran Corominas and (Manuel) Lanzarote. So a combination is very important for a team. If one player is not doing well, another can,” he explained.

The duo of Corominas and Lanzarote scored 31 goals while Marcelinho and Alfaro combined to score 17 goals for their respective sides. But Lanzarote chose to join ATK which meant that particular partnership has been broken. However, the Pune City forward hopes to continue striking the chords with Alfaro.

And now with Miguel Angel Portugal at the helm, Marcelinho feels that the coach has the personnel to take the team all the way to the title. 

GFX Marcelinho quote on Miguel Portugal

“He (Portugal) has a big challenge because we did very well last season. We reached the semi-finals, the team was well connected and now we need to do better. So I don’t know how he will manage, for me, the best foreign players in the league,” he stated.

“I am always motivated. Last season we reached the semi-finals,” he reiterated. “So I’m pushing myself. It’s like a challenge to myself to be in the final but it’s not easy. We need to work step by step to be competitive and play well. I will give my maximum and I hope to be happy at the end of the season.”

Marcelinho feels that Pune City are title contenders but backs the likes of the ATK, Bengaluru FC and FC Goa to challenge for it too.

“It’s too early to say who will be the title contenders. We are in pre-season. I have high expectations from my team and I hope to be in the final. I think you can see traditional teams like Bengaluru and Goa are playing very well. Jamshedpur are doing well and Kolkata (ATK) is looking strong. There are like five-to-six teams that can be champions. It’s good for the fans and it’s good for the players to be motivated and challenged,” he observed.

Marcelinho Red card

The former Flamengo youth player is no stranger to criticism even if it comes from a section of his own fans, particularly when he picks seemingly unneccesary bookings.

In his defence, the 31-year-old said, “I accept the criticism. I’m not perfect. I am human and I make mistakes. Sometimes, as we are here in India far away from family, we have feelings. Some days you do not feel a hundred per cent. You try to find a line and not to be so bad but also not perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes.

“That’s normal. Everyday, I try to be better. I try not to make mistakes. I can only say that I’m human and I make mistakes like everyone (else).”

FC Pune City have two good wingers in Nikhil Poojari and Ashique Kuruniyan and the former Atletico Madrid B player hopes to build an understanding with the duo. 

“They (Poojari and Kuruniyan) have arrived (from the India U-23 team). They are very good players. Let’s see how coach wants them to play but for sure we will need them. They are strong, they are good and I hope to be connected (to them) as much as possible. We really need that help,” said Marcelinho.

Greece was considered as the Brazilian’s “second home”, having palyed for various clubs there. He now looks forward to play in the ISL on the long haul.

“I’m very happy to be here. A lot of players from my country (Brazil) want to come here to play. I am very proud to play here and I hope to continue for more years. I can say that I am very happy to be a part of the history of ISL.

“About scoring goals, I like to think step by step. I like to be fit and competitive, work on my skills and help my team. And then everything will be a consequence of that. At the end, of course, we want to be champions but I want to do everything step by step,” Marcelinho signed out.

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ISL 2018-19: Delhi Dynamos’ midfield ensemble can turn the tables – football news

From the point of view of tactical evolution, football managers have mostly been obsessed with experimenting with their midfield compositions. From a default three-band 4-4-2 formation to a more frequently used 4-2-3-1 combination in recent decades, we have witnessed how midfield roles have changed.

Most champion sides boast of a robust midfield as it is at the centre of the park where the biggest games are decided. For example, in the previous edition of Indian Super League (ISL), Chennaiyin FC romped to their second title in four years riding on the back of solid performances by their midfield contingent comprising the likes of Dhanpal Ganesh, Anirudh Thapa, Raphael Augusto and Rene Mihelic. And this season, Delhi Dynamos are treading the same path of bolstering their midfield with some thoughtful additions to the squad. 

Apart from snaring Bikramjit Singh and Mihelic from the defending champions, they have made a valuable addition in the overseas quota by hiring the services of Spaniards Marcos Tebar and Adria Carmona. They have also held on to their Indian core of Vinit Rai, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Nandhakumar Sekar and Romeo Fernandes which testify that a lot of planning have undergone in the pre-season in a bid to turn the tables.

Bikramjeet Singh Bharat FC 

Although Josep Gombau did show reasonable tactical flexibility during his previous stint with Western Sydney Wanderers, the Spanish coach mostly tends to stick to either a 4-2-3-1 formation or a more attacking 4-3-3. In both the cases, the Dynamos midfield brigade is perfectly equipped to produce the goods. 

Traditionally in a double pivot, the two holding players possess complementary qualities with one trying to break up play whereas the other performs the role of an orchestrator. With 848 passes, 44 tackles and 24 interceptions, Tebar was the midfield general of Pune City who ran the show lying deep around the centre circle. The Stallions perfected the art of attacking on the break and the breakaways were most initiated by a measured pass from Tebar who seamlessly linked defence and attack. 

If the former Real Madrid graduate can replicate his form from the last season and forms a successful partnership with U23 starlet Vinit Rai, then midfield should not become a concern for Gombau. With 19 clearances and 29 tackles in 17 matches, Rai performed a decent job of regaining possession and destroying attacks. These two have the potential to form a dynamic midfield pairing and complement each other well. 

Vinit Rai Mehtab Hossain Delhi Dynamos FC Jamshedpur FC ISL season 4 2017/2018

Bikramjeet Singh would act as a perfect cover for Rai, as the former Mohun Bagan player had an equally impressive season with Chennaiyin. Along with Dhanpal Ganesh and Anirudh Thapa, Singh was also a vital cog in Chennaiyin midfield who with his defensive abilities provided more freedom to the more attack-minded players like Augusto and Mihelic. 

Fernandes, Sekar and Chhangte have the pace to burn in the flanks which will be a constant threat to opposition full backs. Chhangte showed his versatility when he flourished in an attacking midfield position, although his natural ability to cross or cut inside from the wide areas makes him a perfect fit for the wings. It is high time Fernandes lived up to his potential, having stalled a bit after his exploits with FC Goa in the 2014 season. The former Dempo player also needs to be consistent if he wants to make a comeback into the India national team. 

Romeo Fernandes FC Goa NorthEast United FC ISL season 3 2016

Spaniard Adria Carmona and Rene Mihelic are two options for the number 10 position. Carmona’s exceptional passing ability and a bounty of experience, courtesy of playing in top leagues (La Liga II, La Liga, Seria A) of Europe, will come in handy for Gombau. The former AC Milan and Barcelona Juvenil product has good vision and will be expected to strike up a partnership with Andrija Kaluderovic who should bang in the goals. 

Mihelic, on the other hand, offers another addition in Delhi’s attacking blueprint, given his exceptional set-piece ability. 

Adria Carmona with Philippe Coutinho 
The fascinating aspect of this squad is that each position of the middle-half is covered by personnel who are equally capable of filling in the boots if left vacant by the first-choices. Siam Hanghal would be hoping to make a mark after a couple of flat seasons. There is a lot of healthy competition in the side and that will keep the starters on their toes. 

It is evident that the backroom staff have put in a lot of effort to ensemble a cast who have the potential to overturn the horrid performance of last season. If the squad remains fit and well-drilled for most of the season, Delhi Dynamos have the potential to reach the play-offs. 

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