Predictions | I-League 2010-11

January 7th, 2011 Section: Features, I League

We are a few games in to an exciting new I-League season and there have been a few surprise results. Footballkerala.com decided to ask our own experts what they think will happen in I-League 2010-11.

Patrick Sisupalan (former Viva Kerala player)

Well, East Bengal have had a flying start and look unstoppable at the moment so they might just run away with the title. I do suspect that they will have a blip at some stage as they have already played 25-30 matches and that could allow other teams back into it. The only teams capable of challenging them are slow starters Pune who were fantastic last season. Pune were the only team to beat us twice and scored 3 each time. Obviously Dempo cannot be ignored and they will improve after their national team players return in January. Finally, you can never rule out Churchill Brothers with Odafa banging in the goals.

After the top 4, I expect to see Salgaocar, Chirag, Mohun Bagan, all have enough experience to keep them in the top half but not the quality to challenge.

The bottom half I find difficult to predict. HAL and Mumbai have started well, Viva paid the price for a bad pre-season but will improve. JCT and Air India never look great but always have enough determination and experience to stay up. ONGC have some quality players like ND Opara but may struggle if ND Opara doesn’t score a lot. The AIFF XI will get better but by the time they do it may be too late. They have a good coach and some talented young players but like our young Viva side last year it will just take some time.

1. East Bengal
2. Pune FC
3. Dempo
4. Churchill Brothers
5. Salgaocar
6. Chirag
7. Mohun Bagan
8. HAL
9. Viva Kerala
10. Mumbai FC
11. JCT
12. Air India
13. ONGC
14. AIFF XI

PS Parameswaran (former Editor at IndianFootball.com)

East Bengal winning all their six games in so far is the best contenders to bring I-League outside Goa for the first time. With their arch rivals Mohun Bagan, Dempo, Chruchill Brothers, Chirag all made a sloppy helped them to make a gap of six points at the top.

The defending champions are the worst affected with the AFC Asian Cup and once team India returns it will be a different Dempo. But with a season long camp with national team players will be exhausted and it will be a stern test for the Goan club to retain the title.

Another goan club Salgaocar is expected to finish in top four after an impressive start to the season. Managed by Karim Bencharifa the club will be the surprise package of the season. While last season’s third placed Pune FC after are capable of giving headaches to the title challengers.

Viva Kerala, Air India, JCT, HAL, Mumbai FC will all battle to stay in the league and with no foreigners, lack of experienced players AIFF XI may face the drop. While the Mumbai club ONGC too is a candidate to go down to the second tier.

1. East Bengal
2. Dempo SC
3. Salgaocar
4. Churchill Brothers
5. Chirag United
6. Pune FC
7. Mohun Bagan
8. JCT
9. HAL
10. Mumbai FC
11. Viva Kerala
12. Air India
13. ONGC Mumbai
14. AIFF XI

Jason Morais (Senior Market Analyst at Qatar Sports Investment and columnist for FootballKerala.com)

The top 3 for this season to me will be the usual suspects Dempo and Churchill (read Odafa) Brothers plus a rejuvenated East Bengal. The Kolkata giants are having a dream start but may fall short as they have done too much already in a short period and they also have the AFC Cup to be content with! Dempo seem to have the strongest line-up on paper and with the Indian team regulars returning from international duty, they will be hovering around the top of the league post-Jauary. Former champions Churchill Brothers can never be ruled out with the influential Odafa but he will definitely be missing his erstwhile Brothers Kalu Nnanna (now with mightly Dempo) and Felix (now with the ailing Viva Kerala).

A new-look Salgaocar and stronger Chirag are likely to finish ahead of the mid-table pack. Salgaocar under Bencherifa have been improving with every game. Chirag United have invested sensibly during the transfer season to strengthen areas of concern from last year.

The crammed mid-table is likely to consist of last year’s darkhorses Pune FC, the surprising Mumbai FC, current season’s darkhorses HAL and spineless Mohun Bagan with Kerala’s very own flagship club Viva Kerala. Pune could possibly recover from their season’s blues once inspirational keeper Subrata Pal returns and could even challenge the top 5. Mumbai and HAL who have both had a tremendous start this season are likely to falter due to the lack of a strong bench.

Viva Kerala is a completely different outfit this season and will take their time to gel together. New coach Kunhikrishnan will be trying different combinations and different players at various positions to find the right mix.

The bottom four is likely to be made up of the never-say-die JCT, spirited Air India, newcomers ONGC and the Junior India National Team playing under the umbrella of AIFF XI. JCT and Air India would most likely slug it out with some of the better teams and grab some points. While AIFF XI is capable of upsetting a few teams, ONGC are less likely to pose problems for most of the teams.

1. Dempo
2. East Bengal
3. Churchill Brothers
4. Salgaocar
5. Chirag United
6. Pune FC
7. Mumbai FC
8. Viva Kerala
9. Mohun Bagan
10. HAL
11. JCT
12. Air India
13. AIFF XI
14. ONGC

Adwaidh Rajan (Editor and writer at FootballKerala.com)

This 2010-11 season of I-League is just over a month old and it has proved to be unpredictable as it was in the previous years. A string of upsets and thrashings have been witnessed already and much more is in offer.

For me, this season will belong to Kingfisher East Bengal who have taken their form from the Kolkata league and Federation Cup into the I-League and are on a winning run as I write this. Defending champions Dempo SC will be giving strong competition to the red and gold brigade, but might finish a few points behind East Bengal.

Odafe Okolie goals will help Churchill Brothers to make up for the loss of a few points at the start of the season and they may finish third. Another team that mightily impressed me was Karim Bencherifa’s Salgaocar SC. If they can sustain the form they are in at the moment, it might be a Goan two-three-four when I-League 2010-11 concludes in May.

I had high expectations of Pune FC before the start of the season, but their slump in form in the matches they played till now will result them end up in the middle of the pack. Our own Viva Kerala were playing good football in the home matches I witnessed, but were unfortunate of being held to draws. But, they will up their performance and I hope they upset some big Kolkata and Goan clubs!

Another team I look forward to are AIFF XI. For me, it is an interesting prospect to see these young boys who will one day represent India, play as a team against the domestic clubs. I wish to see them avoid the drop.

1. East Bengal
2. Dempo SC
3. Churchill Brothers
4. Salgaocar SC
5. Mohun Bagan
6. Chirag United
7. Pune FC
8. Viva Kerala.
9. HAL
10. AIFF XI
11. Mumbai FC
12. Air India
13. JCT
14. ONGC