Real Kashmir FC renew their dream debut campaign, aiming to grab the top spot on the points table in a 12th round I-League clash against Aizawl FC here on Friday.
There can be no better illustration of the different directions that the campaigns of the two opposing teams have taken than the evident gulf on 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 Stanley Rosario appointed in place of Gift Raikhan, who resigned earlier after a string of poor shows, while Real Kashmir coach David Robertson has never looked more certain of what he was trying to achieve with his team.
The Srinagar-based debutants have been built on the foundation of a sturdy defence and a strong and sound goalkeeper. Available local resources have been cleverly used with a mix of foreign recruits at crucial positions.
The focus has also been on fit and young players and all have been shuffled around cleverly to get the maximum out of them.
"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 should not 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," Scotsman Robertson said at the pre-match press conference.
Aizawl, on the other hand, have been blowing hot and cold, more cold than hot rather, resulting in the parting of ways with Raikhan eventually.
They have good players in Mapuia and David, while foreigners like Kromah, Dodoz and Jaryan have been producing decent performances, 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 Lajong have leaked more.
"We will fight for three points as it is our home match and we don't want to lose this game. Stanley 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," assistant coach Jonathan said.
"Real Kashmir are high on scoring and there 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 due to injury.