Round 8 : The Half way stage ! Some 6 pointers at both ends of the table

The round kicks off with Relegation "6 pointer" , as 6th place Shillong Lajong ( 2W-1D-1L) travel to Mizoram to face the 7th place hosts Aizawl FC in the 1st of it's kind NE derby.
Both teams are coming off comprehensive defeats in Kolkata, & will be looking to bounce back with 3 points.

These NorthEastern rivals are facing an all too familiar " short-blanket" syndrome. They might need to reign back on their attack in search of a compact defence, but if they opt for defensive approach they have to sacrifice some flair up front.
Thangboi Singto is likely to persist with his gun-ho approach that saw them trouble the East Bengal defence but left them exposed at the back. He should opt to drop one of his 3 attack minded foreigners ( Fabio / Uilliams / Penn ) to bring in local boys Jacob / Lalrammuana who provided much needed stability and balance in centre midfield. Vishal Kaith will surely make way for Kunzang Bhutia after his nightmare at Barasat, and Aibor might drop int defence to fill in for the suspended Chingelsana. Given the Lajong owners Mizo lineage he will be tempted to give starts to a few of the Lajong Mizo boys.

Jahar Das on the other hand will try to impose his own will on the team, & most likely opt for a 4-4-2 , this could be the death for Aizawl FC as they have looked impressive going forward in an expansive 4-3-3. They are a tad naive at the back with youngsters Chhunlova , Ricky & Tuatara all hell bent on showcasing their attacking prowess in addition to their defensive qualities.

Aizawl are desperate for the win or we could start to see daylight from the relegation zone to the middle pack.  Lajong could afford a draw, but with Karim Bencharifa sniffing around for a job in NE, both coaches will want to assert their control over proceedings.
A cagey match could explode into a goal frenzy , with record crowds expected, this would should be the ideal way to start off this fantastic round of games. 
The evening game see's a repeat of the Title decide last year, as Bengaluru FC (5W-2L) take on Mohun Bagan ( 3W-2D) at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.
The last encounter saw a classic game decided by some controversial refereeing and 2 set-piece goals. Expect the same , as a nervy pre-match press conference hinted at whats at stake.
A win for Ashley Westwood would give them top spot , and put pressure on the chasing Kolkata teams, as BFC don't have another League game until the 28th of Feb, a defeat could see them drop to 3rd or 4th before they resume , and most importantly, the title winning teams' cannot afford to lose more than 3 games in a 16 game season !
Sanjoy Sen might have games in hand thanks to the bumbling Sunando Dhar scheduling, but anything less than a win here will see them playing catch up with 9 games in 28 days, including trips to Goa , Aizawl & Hong Kong !

MMB will line up in a familiar 4-4-1-1 which morphs into a 4-2-4 . The defence will be marshalled by Luciano Sabres, with long throwers Raju Gaikwad & Dhanachandra Singh providing the width . The only change could see Sanjay Balmuchu replace Kingship Debnath as Sen wants to be cautious against BFC's direct football.
The actor role in midfield will be shared by the impressive Pranoy Halder & Bikramjit Singh. The latter scored against BFC at YBK last year in the 4-1 hammering BFC; this could see him edge ahead of Sanjoy sen's "love-child" Soubik Chakraborty :wink: 

BFC  will be forced to make changes again. Eugeneson Lyngdoh is out for a while with a fracture, and this could force them to play one less in midfield and an extra striker. CK Vineeth has formed a good partnership with Kim Yong Song, and with both on 3 goals a piece , they will be looking to add to their tally against a team that has only kept 1 clean sheet in 5 games.

Expecting something controversial in this game & for the sparks to fly , could be the classic encounter that these games have always been.
Sunday Games:
8th placed DSK Shivajians ( 1W 1D 4L) will look to bounce back from the hammering they received in Bangalore, as they face Santosh "Guardiola" Kashyap's new look Salgaocar ( 2 D 4L) in the basement battle.

Should Aizawl win against Lajong , the pressure for a win on Kashyap will be immense. His usual penchant for a 5-2-3( 3-5-2) style of play has been evident , and whilst it has helped them go a goal-up in both games under his tutelage , they have been guilty of giving away cheap goals at the end. Is this due to the poor conditioning that the has inherited from Malky Thompson , or just a result of his kamikaze style of play !?
The injury to Jackie & Seitya might be a blessing in disguise, as he could play more balanced wingers like Gilbert Oliveira and Saran Singh. The return of Martin Scott will also help protect Rocus Lamare from having to deal with the ever green Douhou Pierre. Once again the onus will be on Duffy to bail them out with a goal or 2 , but unless they manage to keep their 1st ever clean sheet of the season, we could see another draw here.
DSK might have got 2 goals in 2 games , but that doesn't hide the fact that Derrick Pereira's team have scored only 2 goals in 6 games !! His poor recruitment has become all too clear. The likes of Rohan Adnaik , Don Bosco Fernandes, Sree Molangiri , Chandra, Indra etc are all impressive performers in the Pune Super Division , but to expect them to be able to step up to I-League is either negligent or over ambitious on the coaches/management part. Whilst adding experience is key, as Aizawl will attest to, adding veterans like Douhou, Rafi , Thorat , Subrata , Amiri and Justin will leave the team without their services for 50% of the games. these injury prone "has-beens" are also known for their inconsistency.
Derrick's downward spiral from Pune heydays , to Salgaocar near relegation will culminate in this game. If Salgaocar manage to secure their 1st win of the season, we could see Derrick Pereira follow in the footsteps of another Goan legend , Armando Colaco.
The final game see's Sporting Club de Goa ( 2W -2L-2D) look to break away from the middle of the pack and establish themselves as title contenders.
Matteus Costa's side can beat anyone on their day, but could also be beaten by anyone . Their over reliance on Odafa will be their downfall in the end , but in the short term they can make hay while he shines.
Mumbai FC ( 2W-3D-1L) put in a typical tough tackling performance to hold Mohun Bagan to a goal less draw, the 2nd time Khalid Jamil has engineered this versus a Kolkata giant this season. He has taken 5 points from the top 2 teams , and kept a clean sheet versus all of them. The jeklyl & hyde nature of the Coach is reflective in his team , as their only defeat has been to the worst team in the league. Complacency will not be an issue in this game, but their lack of goals might be a concern for Khalid Jamil ,4 goals in 6 games isn't a great return , especially when you read it as they have failed to score in 4 games out of 6 !! With the tireless work of Sushil & Ryuji Kozawa, they have looked an impressive attacking force , but with Taisuke missing, and Jayesh being away ,they are short of the quality required in the final 3rd.
Unless Eric Brown can score his customary long ranger that he is due by now, or all those set-pieces they're working on last week finally come off, we could see another war of attrition in this game.
Babertomunna219777deepakcSoccerloverarchakMaddieDeb_BanBrainFallINDIAshankarNagendraand 2 others.


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