Durand Cup 2021 kicks off on 5th September and the final is scheduled for 3rd October. 16 teams will be fighting for Asia’s oldest competition and are placed under four groups. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are the most successful team winning 16 titles each.
Let’s have a look at the top three title contenders for the 130th edition.
FC Goa – strong favourites for Durand Cup 2021 title
FC Goa have been superb since their ISL Winners’ Shield triumph in the 2018-19 Indian Super League season. However, many changes occured within the squad and new coach Juan Ferrando adapted his side to a new attacking style of football.
The Gaurs have been hit badly by the departures of players such as Igor Angulo and Ishan Pandita. However, other foreigners have been retained and Goa hasn’t made many changes to their squad. Goa have played some friendlies but haven’t publicized the results of those matches.
Here’s the squad which was recently announced by FC Goa officially.
The squad consists of a superb mix of youngsters as well as experienced players. Edu Bedia would be the skipper leading the Gaurs for the fifth time whereas Jorge Ortiz, Alberto Noguera and Ivan Gonzalez complete the overseas player’s quota.
In the 2019 edition, Goa finished second in Group C alongside Real Kashmir. But they couldn’t make it to the knockouts as only the team finishing first in the group qualifies to the next round.
Gaffer Ferrando did an awesome job in the ISL last season and Goa also became the first Indian team to feature in AFC Champions League. Goa plays Army Green on 7th September in their opening match at the VYBK Stadium. Then, they will lock horns with Sudeva Delhi FC and Jamshedpur FC on 13th and 17th September in Group B.
Gokulam Kerala – the defending champions
Gokulam Kerala had a dream season last year winning the I-League as well as the Durand Cup. However, the latter wasn’t won by current gaffer Vincenzo Alberto Annese.
Defensive midfielder Sharif Mukhammad would be the new skipper. Additionally, the club would be making some changes in their foreign recruits as compared to their previous season. The club hasn’t announced the squad yet but it would surely be the first team squad with a good mix of young and experienced players. Here’s the post announcing the team flying to Kolkata.
Similar to Goa, the team would be managed by Italian coach Annese, who looks ahead to defend the third oldest competition in the world. Last time around, they defeated Kibu Vicuna-led Mohun Bagan 2-1 in the final. Gokulam recently were the 2-0 winners against Kerala United in the penultimate friendly before flying to Kolkata.
The Malabarians will play Army Red in their opening match on 12th September. Then, they will play against Hyderabad FC and Assam Rifles on 16th and 19th September respectively.
Kerala Blasters – the new entrants of Durand Cup 2021
Kerala Blasters are the fifth ISL team to participate alongside FC Goa, Hyderabad FC, Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC. However, they are the first team to announce their squad along with the foreigners and first-team players.
The two-time Indian Super League finalists have been experiencing difficult times since the 2016 season with frequent managerial appointments and new foreign recruits every season. But, the club moved on to a different approach this season and would be focusing only on the attacking style of play.
Ivan Vukomanovic replaced Kibu Vicuna and have started the preparations for the new season early on. The team started pre-season training early and have brought in some exciting new signings. Here’s the squad announced by the Kochi club.
Enes Sipovic and Adrian Luna have been brilliant in the recent friendlies. Whereas Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Chencho Gyeltshen would be accompanying them as the foreign recruits.
Blasters lost 1-0 and drew 3-3 against I-League 2nd division side Kerala United in the friendlies which lasted for 120 minutes each. Recently, the club also won 2-0 against Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council football team in a friendly at Kochi.
The Tuskers have never participated in the prestigious tournament before. However, the pre-season preparations offer a lot of hope and promise about a new era in Kerala football. Will a new Kerala club win the title or will Gokulam defend it or will a new champion emerge in Durand Cup this season?
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