Thu, 28 Sep 2023

Kolkata (West Bengal)[India], August 19 (ANI): The 131st Durand Cup gallops along and in a third straight day of doubleheaders, champions FC Goa take on the Indian Air Force at Kolkata's Kishore Bharati Krirangan (KBK) and two teams make their first appearance in the tournament, as the Kerala Blasters take on Sudeva FC of Delhi at the Indira Gandhi Atheltic stadium in Guwahati.

It did not quite go according to plan for the champions on an opening day, when they went down 1-3 to local giants Mohammedan Sporting at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK). Maybe a change of venue to the KBK will bring a change of fortune for the Gaurs against an Indian Air Force side which will not be short on grit.

The Gaurs will look to Muhammed Nemil once again to do the star turn as he did with a wonderful opening goal against Mohammedan but the Air Force with experienced players like Shibinraj in goal, Arshdeep in defence, Sourav Shadhukan in midfield and former Mizoram Santosh Trophy winning captain Zico Zoremsanga and Mandeep Singh upfront, will certainly pose a challenge.

It will be the Gaurs' second game in Group A in three days, but the Air Force's first so the Goan gaffer Deggie Cardozo will also have to be aware of the Airmen's relative freshness.

The Kerala Blasters and Sudeva FC game at the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium which follows the FC Goa-Indian Air Force game on Matchday 4, will see both teams making a first appearance in this year's tournament while it will be their second overall appearance at the Durand Cup.

With Kerala bringing a young side and Sudeva having an active transfer season it will be interesting to note how things pan out on the ground but both have players in their squad who the opponents will be wary of.

The Blasters might unleash Sudeva's own Shubho Paul on them in attack and with players like India U-20 SAFF championship winner Vibin Mohanan and talented midfielders like Ebindas Yesudasan in their ranks, Sudeva will have their hands full.

The Delhi side on the other hand does not lack talent as well with the likes of Abhijit Sarkar, who impressed one and all in the FIFA U-17 world cup held in India and later, in their squad. They also bring in experience in midfield with the likes of Souvik Das who has played in the highest echelons of Indian football and with the top clubs as well, as they do in wing play with the likes of journeyman Chesterpaul Lyngdoh.

Odhisa FC began proceedings in Group D with a 6-0 win over North East United FC (NEUFC) and there are only two spots for grabs to make the knockouts. None of Sudeva or the Blasters will want to let go of an opportunity to win first-up by cashing in on any laziness on the other's part. (ANI)

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