After grabbing four points from two matches against much higher-placed teams, Sudeva Delhi are not looking like the outliers of the I-League anymore.
Especially after holding RoundGlass Punjab FC, Sankarlal Chakraborty's side are suddenly looking a potent unit good enough to compete against anybody.
On the contrary, Real Kashmir FC are yet to win a match in 2023. Their last victory came six matches ago on December 22, 2022, against Kenkre FC in Mumbai. In short, Mehrajuddin Wadoo's men were not able to reverse their abysmal away record. As a result, they have got a new coach as they return home to play Sudeva Delhi here at TRC Stadium on Wednesday. Gifton Noel Williams, the new man in charge, would hope at least the home form does not desert his team.
Real Kashmir have been slipping down the ladder for long and are sitting seventh on the table right now, with 19 points. If the slide is not arrested now, they could be looking at relegation sooner rather than later. They will be up against Kenkre again in the next match, who are another improving side. They already have 14 points in the bag, so if Real Kashmir fail to beat Sudeva, the gap will look narrower.
What should worry Williams more, is that Real Kashmir have looked the most listless of the sides in the bottom half. On paper, they are a formidable unit. They have an experienced man like Subhashis Roy Chowdhury under the bar, men like Jestin George, Akashdeep Singh in defence. There is a mix of young talent and experienced foreign legs in the midfield in the form of Nurudeen Davronov and Yakubu Wadudu. The strike force also looks potent but the potential has not translated into results.
However, the pressure did not show on Williams on the eve of the match. "We've been on the road for quite some time, so it's homecoming for me as well as the boys," he said in a relaxed tone.
He insisted on letting bygones be bygones. "With a new manager comes new philosophy, so I won't think about what has happened so far," he commented. "I've watched the videos of those games and spoke to some individuals about changing some things." Williams hinted that he may prompt the side to play in a different style, different formation.
"I might be making some changes, some players who have not played so much may get to play but I don't believe in changing everything. Because this team with this set of players won match after the match earlier in the season, so they couldn't have become bad in a matter of few matches," Williams said.
Apart from returning to their home ground, one factor that could work in Real Kashmir's favour is the fatigue of resurgent Sudeva. Chakraborty pointed out on Tuesday that "counting tomorrow's match, our team will be playing four matches in ten days. So there is some tiredness in the camp."
The coach also admitted that conditions here make it tough for away teams. "It's always been so. When I used to come here to play for Mohun Bagan, we needed time to adjust to the height, to the weather. But here we don't have much time to acclimatise," he remarked. "However, everyone deals with these difficulties."
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