TWO ROUNDS REMAINING AND TWO TEAMS will fight it out for the I-League title. And what makes it even more interesting is that both teams face off each other to decide the title.
Permutations for winning the title are few but the action will be aplenty and packed with excitement. Mohun Bagan, the defending Federation Cup champions will be against the team that they beat to claim the title. Aizawl FC surprised many last season.After they were forcefully relegated, they came back a changed and determined side and reached the finals of the Fed Cup.
At the start of the this season, things were different this time around for Aizawl FC. Their coach Jahar Das had left the club after ending the season on a high. Few players had moved on and the team was left looking to replace the coach and the important players.
For Mohun Bagan, it was much easier. The major key players stayed, the coach continued being with the team and there were no financial woes as well.
Aizawl FC got in Khalid Jamil to fill in the head coach's position and he got along a dual package in the form of Jayesh Rane and Ashutosh Mehta from the club he moved away from.
We take a look at the philosophies of Khalid Jamil and Sanjoy Sen, that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each other,their sides level on points and just each other in the way to the I-League title.
For Sen, it was not much of a moving and shifting of things to getting off with the campaign. More or less, everything was available on the platter with the nearly the same squad from last season. Darryl Duffy and Eduardo joined the team in the foreigner spots. Sen had to use the strengths of the players he had known.
Jamil had the tougher job of the two coaches. He had moved out of a club where he had begun his managerial career with and spent 7 long years there. The call up to Aizawl team came in late and he hardly got any time to prepare for his new start. But with him from Mumbai FC, came along Jayesh and Ashutosh. These two players would go on to make a big difference in the upcoming season.
Style of play
Over the years,for Mohun Bagan, their strength is in attack. They have known to be difficult to contain for many teams. Sen's philosophy has been no different. He places his trusted attackers on the both wings and in central midfield. The strikers are equipped with playing the furthest players forward. Seldom one will find strikers dropping down. And that helps the team to launch quick counter attacks as they have one man always ready to break into speed.
Aizawl FC under Khalid Jamil are way different. Being associated with Mumbai FC, Khalid had fought through all the budget constraints to avoid relegation and keep the team in the I-League for all the years he was in charge. Mumbai FC, for all the tooth and nail fight till the last rounds, had earned majority of the points in low scoring or goalless draws, thus Khalid came to be known as a defensive coach. But in our exclusive interview with Khalid, he said he needed to tailor his strategy according to the opponents and the squad he had to get the results.
This team from Mizoram was shaped into a thinking team by Jamil. A look at the backs, the defence does not hold a high line and that is the reason, they have not conceded too many goals via counter attacks.An added crown to the backline of AFC is that they have kept seven clean sheets this season. The credit equally goes to Albino Gomes. Whenever the defence had been breached, Gomes has stood like a wall to stop the opposition from scoring.
The strongest muscle of Aizawl FC is in scoring. They miss very few ! And in fact there have been just two games so far this season that Aizawl have failed to score. Now, that is surely not a "defensive coach's" team, right? Such is the steadfast nature of the team that they never stop believing that they can score; 7 of their goals have come in the last 15 minutes of the game.
What's at stake for the coaches
Sen was brought in the team late in the year 2014. In his very first season in charge, he took Bagan to their first league title in 13 years and the long trophy less streak was broken. Thereafter, going on the pocket the Federation Cup and finishing runners up in the I-league last year. So for Sen, the benchmark has been set by himself bagging the trophies being in charge. Now, he has to live up to the standards set in his tenure at the club. With the AFC Cup slipping out of the reach, Bagan have shown that I-league is desired much more that the continental championship. So much so that in yesterday's home game Maziya, Sen fielded a 100% Indian squad and lost the game. All of this, just because the focus is on the all important clash against Aizawl this weekend.
Khalid has a lot to prove to people who had doubted his capability to lead a club with restrained budget and high ambitions. That was the reason that his work with Mumbai FC was taken for granted and parted ways with him and announced a new coach and an aim to finish in the top three of the league. Khalid took up the Aizawl job and worked on the mental side of the players as much as the tactical. The fight-till-the-end attitude of the team has clearly seen them edging their opponents in that regard. Khalid's work has already spoken for itself and as the country heaps praises about the team and knows what a transformation he has got into the team mentally and tactically. Aizawl last year came close to winning the Federation Cup, that time it was Mohun Bagan who were in their way and yet again time has got both the teams at the start of a red carpet where only one team can walk on. Although the tournament for the face-off is not the Fed Cup BUT it's the same team, same coach and nearly the same players.Khalid has emotions and hopes of a small town of football-loving people pinned on him. Can Khalid and his transformed side be the difference that was missing for The People's Club last season?
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