Real Kashmir FC renew their dream debut campaign aiming straight for the top spot in the 12th round Hero I-League clash with Aizawl FC at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium here on Friday.
There can be no better illustration of the different directions that the campaigns of both teams have taken, than the evident gulf in the points table. Kashmir are third while Aizawl are a rung above the bottom in the 11-team league.
Aizawl have a new coach in Standley Rosario, being appointed in place of Gift Raikhan, who resigned earlier, while Kashmir coach David Robertson has never looked more certain of what he was trying to achieve with his team.
The debutants have been built on the foundation of a sturdy defence and a strong and sound keeper. Available resources have been cleverly used in unnatural positions sometimes and when required, gaps have also been filled by drafting in the foreign recruit.
The focus has also been on fit and young players and all have been shuffled around cleverly to get the maximum out of them and get the job done.
Scotsman Daivd Robertson, however, put up a pragmatic front on matchday eve on the prospects for Friday, saying, "We come to play well in every game. As we are a new team in the league, it's difficult for us to set our foot. As long as we do what we do, we shouldn't have any issues but anything is possible here. We have started well and our aim is to stay in the league. For us, it's more about enjoying the league."
Aizawl, on the other hand, have been blowing hot and cold, more cold than hot rather, resulting in the parting of the former coach eventually.
They have had sparks in Mapuia and David, while foreigners Kromah, Dodoz and Jaryan have been just about par or below, but somehow the team has not been able to gel well.
New coach Rosario will have the services of new signing Richard Kassaga of Uganda to bolster his defence and it remains to be seen how much of a difference he is able to make, given it has been Aizawl's weakest link conceding a whopping 18 goals till now. Only Shillong have leaked more.
Rosario, in fact, could not make it to the pre-game presser on time and assistant coach Jonathan, fielding questions, said: "We will fight for three points as it is our home match and we don't want to lose this game. Standley will arrive today and will be there for the practice. We will be planning the game strategy as it will be a challenging match for us. Real Kashmir are high on scoring and their defence and passing are strong. Our players are also motivated and we will be giving our best."
He also ruled out Ivorian striker Ansumanah Kromah with an injury.
The beauty of the Kashmir campaign has been that despite their high position, none of their players find themselves among the league's top five scorers and they have scored 15 goals.
They have found new scorers on a daily basis and that has worked wonders for them.
Bazie Armand, who scored the winner for Kashmir in their first leg at the TRC ground, was also a new scorer on the day and went on to add another crucial goal in later games to his name.
The odds are heavily in favour of the Snow Leopards' from Srinagar and Aizawl have a mountain to climb, the only comfort being that this time the mountain is at home.
( 607 Words)