Jamshedpur travel to Guwahati to face NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Stadium later today and play in their first ever ISL match.
The side led by Steve Coppell and backed by Tata Steel have put together quite an impressive squad for the inaugral season and could be ones to watch in ISL4. Coppell, who led Kerala Blasters to the final last season, has recruited top Indian players in the likes of goalkeeper Subrata Pal, defender Anas Edathodika and Mehtab Hossain who can dictate the midfield. Tiri and Sameehg Doutie won ISL last season with ATK and Kervens Belfort has also followed Coppell from Kerala, providing Jamshedpur with a fine focal point to the attacks. However, the side is new and could take time to settle into the competition.
The “Highlanders” of NorthEast United have seen their squad change dramatically over the close season. They have shyed away from the marquee signing approach but have made a number of foreign signings, including the Brazilian midfield duo of Adilson Goiano and Marcinho. Colombian Luis Alfonso Paez is expected to be their main striker. They too have a base of strong Indian players, contracting the services of TP Rehenesh, midfielder Rowllin Borges and winger Holicharan Narzary for this season.
There was a small controversy in the press conference leading up to the opening fixture. When asked whether NorthEast United could win this season’s ISL, rather than reeling off the stock football answer of “we believe, anything is possible, of course there are good teams but we can beat anyone on our day etc” NUFC striker Holicharan Narzary simply sat there, silently, before shaking his head. Honesty, if nothing else – but can we believe him?
Meanwhile off the pitch Jamshedpur are believed to be working hard to secure a link with a Spanish La Liga side, the identity of whom is very much unknown at this stage.
Yesterday’s ISL opener between Kerala Blasters and ATK was an entertaining 0-0 draw. Whether these two sides can be separated is too hard to call, but if we had to pick a winner we would say Jamshedpur, just!