Delhi Dynamos FC will look to add another scalp to their name when they host Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Thursday.
Both teams are virtually out of the contention for a playoff spot this season but will look to add to their point tallies to finish in a respectable position at the end of the season. The teams have come face to face on 11 occasions in the past, with Kerala winning five and Delhi coming out on top just twice.
Delhi will look to take inspiration from the victory over Chennaiyin FC in their last outing before the winter break started and put their best foot forward against Kerala on Thursday. Currently second-last in the table, a win for Josep Gombau’s men in the fixture will propel them over Kerala to the eighth spot.
Having parted ways with veteran defender Pritam Kotal and striker Andrija Kaludjerovic during the January transfer window, the Lions may field a very new-look starting XI. All eyes will be on new signing Ulises Davila, who will be expected to add some goals to the team. The Mexican attacking midfielder comes with a big reputation and Gombau might decide to throw him in the fray from the get-go.
With Pritam Kotal moving to ATK, midfield general Marcos Tebar is expected to take over the captain’s armband and will have to bear the added responsibility of motivating the team. Mohammad Dhot, meanwhile, is primed to take up Kotal’s position at right-back.
Lallianzuala Chhangte has been the Lions’ standout offensive player this season with four goals to his name. However, with the 21-year-old winger due for trials with Norwegian club Viking FK sometime in February, his future at the club is still unclear. But with the influence he has on the team, the youngster is likely to be the first name on Gombau’s team sheet, should he be available. If Delhi does end up losing him sometime down the line, it will be a big blow for them.
Like Delhi, Kerala has only one win to their name in this season so far – one which came in the opening day of the season back in September. The two-time Hero ISL finalists have only managed seven draws and five losses in their subsequent 12 outings.
The club parted ways with former head coach David James during the winter break and brought in former NorthEast United FC head coach Nelo Vingada to take over the reins for the rest of the season. Kerala looked like a better-organized unit against ATK in their first match under Vingada last week, but lacked the cutting edge in front of the goal. The team did manage to register a draw but needed a late own goal from ATK to salvage the point.
With big names like CK Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary moving to Chennaiyin during the break, Kerala, on paper, look a little lightweight on the offensive side of things. Vingada will hope for a better performance from the likes of Matej Poplatnik, Slavisa Stojanovic and Seiminlen Doungel to pose a greater threat to the Delhi goal on Thursday. Zakeer Mundampara’s six-month suspension rules him out for the rest of the season and will be a big hindrance to the team. Centre back Anas Edathodika missed the ATK match due to an injury and is unlikely to feature on Thursday too.
DELHI DYNAMOS FC: Albino Gomes (GK), Narayan Das, Gianni Zuiverloon, Marti Crespi, Mohammad Dhot, Nandhakumar Sekar, Ulises Davila, Marcos Tebar (C), Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rene Mihelic, Daniel Lalhlimpuia
KERALA BLASTERS FC: Dheeraj Singh (GK), Cyril Kali, Sandesh Jhingan (C), Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Lalruatthara, Sahal Abdul Samad, Nikola Krcmarevic, Prasanth K, Seiminlen Doungel, Slavisa Stojanovic, Matej Poplatnik