As the best domestic players in both the camps have been picked to play in 22-man squad against Turkmenistan in the 2018 World Cup qualifier on October 8 at Ashgabat, FC Pune City and Mumbai FC will have to rely on its recent foreign recruits.
The match, which will take place at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Krida Sankul in Balewadi on Monday, will see a lot of foreign players in action due to the absence of Sunil Chhetri — the highest goalscorer of all time for India with 50 goals, Subrata Paul — India’s most trusted goalkeeper, both of whom play for Mumbai apart from Eugenson Lyngdoh, the costliest domestic player who was named as the player of the tournament in I-league and Jakichand Singh.
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However, they will be replaced by the newly brought foreign players, as ISL allows a maximum 6 foreigners in a team. For Mumbai, manager-player Nicolas Anelka and Andre Moritz might do the trick while Pune will rely on Tuncay Sanli and Didier Zokora for their first home win.
FC Pune City’s marquee, Adrian Mutu, might be available for the tournament. However, he might as well stay on bench due to a minor injury faced in a recent training session.
Addressing the media, Platt, who had once played alongside Mumbai’s manager Nicolas Anelka at the English club Arsenal, said, “Nicolas is a player who loves to attack and he will try to exploit our defence rather than defending. Since it is the first game, neither club has a proper strategy. It will take atleast two to three games to understand the mindset of each team.”
Commenting on how his team will shape up on Monday, Platt said, “With the signings of Mutu, Sanli, Ruiz and Uche, we’ve made our intention clear. We will focus to attack. However, if the game forces us to defend, we’re prepared on that front too.”
Platt said that the team will miss Lyngdoh and Singh.
However, he also believes that there are other Indian players who will be able to fill their shoes.
“We’ve many talented domestic players and most of them have impressed me in the training session. If they show their worth, you might see more Indian players and less foreign players in the team in the coming matches.”
Commenting on his decision to name a foreign player (Didier Zokora), the captain of FC Pune City, Platt said, “Zokora is the player who bridged the gap between foreign players and domestic players. I think his leadership qualities will help Pune a lot.”
Mumbai’s attacking midfielder Andre Moritz, who also played for them in the inaugural season of the tournament, is the only suitable candidate for captaincy, according to manager Nicolas Anelka.
“We’ve a plan B. We knew that Chhetri and Paul may not be available. It is a big loss for the team. But we’ve players who can replace them perfectly,” Moritz said.