New Delhi, October 2: Old friends will turn foes as Delhi Dynamos host FC Pune City in their Hero Indian Super League 2018-19 opener at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Wednesday.
At the centre of attention will be visiting coach Miguel Angel Portugal who was in charge of the home team last season. The Spaniard could only guide Delhi Dynamos to an eighth-place finish in what was ultimately a disappointing season.
Subsequently, he left Dynamos and was then roped in by FC Pune City. He will have a point to prove against his former club and starting the season with a win over them will be high on his agenda.
Delhi Dynamos replaced Portugal with another Spaniard, Josep Gombau, who has revamped the club’s foreign contingent to supplement a promising group of Indian youngsters.
“Everyone’s target is to win and mine is no different. We want to be challenging from the beginning,” said a confident Gombau.
He has signed four of his compatriots, with the capture of Marcos Tebar a much-talked about one. Tebar played for Pune last season and now returns to Delhi for a second stint with the club. He was exceptional as an anchor in midfield last season and Gombau will expect him to continue that form against his former employers.
“Marcos is a very good player. He has the potential to build this project. Apart from that, he is a good guy. He is friendly with everybody. Indian players look up to him. This type of player who has an open mentality to help is very important for the squad,” said Gombau.
Pune City have a star cast in terms of overseas signings and Miguel Portugal will have a luxury of attackers at his disposal.
“For me, it’s another challenge. My thanks to Delhi. I was really happy there but now I have signed for Pune. I have confidence in Pune. We have very good players. We will try to improve. It’s not easy but I have confidence in our philosophy,” said Portugal.
Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro should lead the line upfront. They are a lethal pair, as they proved last season and Delhi’s defence will have a battle on their hands.
With pacy wingers in Ashique Kuruniyan and Nikhil Poojari set to play on the flanks, Delhi’s full-backs have to be on their toes.
The Stallions seem to be a settled and strong outfit and Portugal will be expecting a positive start. However, Delhi’s youthful exuberance and energy will be an asset for Gombau.
Will Portugal make a statement against his former employers or will Delhi Dynamos get one over their former boss?