Indian Super League Shield winners Jamshedpur FC will be locking horns against Kerala Blasters in the first leg of the high-profile semifinal battle. The Men of Steel are in excellent form, having won seven consecutive matches on the go that helped them secure the ISL Shield.
On the other hand, Kerala Blasters will be making a semifinal appearance for the first time in 6 years. They finished fourth in the league and now will be hoping to make a display on the field.
Previously, both the teams have faced each other 10 times and Jamshedpur FC emerged as the better team that has won 3 matches. Kerala Blasters have only won a single match against JFC in their history. The rest 6 matches have been winner-less. In the previous meeting, Jamshedpur FC registered a strong 3-0 win and is unbeaten against Kerala Blasters this season.
As the first leg of the semifinal is now just a matter of a few hours, let's take a look at the Top 5 things we can expect from this encounter.
Adrian Luna vs Greg Stewart
Both Adrian Luna and Greg Stewart have been among the best performers of the season. Greg Stewart is having an excellent season, having scored 10 and assisted 10 in 19 matches. Luna too has been very effective for his team, having scored 5 goals and 7 assists. Both the playmaker will have to be on their best to perform and help their respective teams. They will have the responsibility of creating opportunities and key moments for their teams and will be very critical to their team's success.
The pairing of Vazquez and Diaz essential for KBFC
Vazquez and Diaz have been a great forward pairing for the Blasters this season. Vazquez has bagged a total of 8 goals and 1 assist this season in 20 games. His strike partner Diaz also has the exact same tally but in 18 games. Both of the forwards have been very impressive throughout this season. To break the strong defensive unit of JFC, these two forwards need to stay in constant focus and do what they have been doing this whole season.
Hartley and Sabia in the heart of the defense
Jamshedpur FC has conceded the least amount of goals among all teams this season (21). Of which most of the credit goes to the defensive pairing of Captain Peter Hartley and Eli Sabia. Both have a strong presence and good communication in the central defensive area. Hartley has been a stand-out performer with 20 interceptions and 63 clearances to his name. On the other hand, Eli Sabia has been equally good and has 23 interceptions and 611 clearances to his name. Going to face the trio of Luna, Vazquez, and Diaz, the JFC central back pairing of Hartley and Eli Sabia will be on their toes.
A game of counterattacking and set-piece
Players like Stewart, Chima, Hartley, Luna, Vazquez, and Diaz are going to feature in the match which helps us to easily understand that the game will be played in high intensity. However, it is expected that both teams will opt for a defensive approach to the game, with first priority given to defensive solidarity and most of the attacks happening through counter-attacks and set-piece plays. Both teams have got a number of pacy players who can drive up the field and capitalize on counter-attacking moments. Along with counterattacks, set-piece plays will also be very decisive as both the teams have got quality set-piece takers in their ranks.
Indian players to play a crucial role
Both Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters have got a number of dependable Indian players. Talking about JFC, Ritwik Das has created a lot of trouble for his oppositions from the wings, Jitendra Singh has played a very crucial role in the red miner's central midfield throughout the season. On the other hand, Sahal Abdul Samad has been a very important name for the Blasters, having scored 5 goals and assisted once he will be hoping to maintain his form and help his team in big games. Another KBFC midfielder, Khawlhring has also been a standout performer for his team, having assisted 3 goals. Indian players from both teams will also have a lot to prove.