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As the I-League season 2013-14 approaches, Goal introduces each of the 13 competitors, while in this edition we take a look at the defending champions


GOALBY   ANSELM NORONHA     Follow @apnoronha on twitter



Churchill Brothers SC


Last season's performance: (I-League winners) - Subhash Bhowmick, in his capacity of a technical director, guided the club to win the league title. He built the team around Beto and made some important signings in the winter transfer window with Sunil Chhetri making an important contribution towards the end. They pipped Pune FC by three points to win their second I-League crown.

They scored the maximum goals in the league (56) and that was evident in their 8-4, 5-0 and 6-0 thrashing of Sporting Clube de Goa, ONGC FC and Shillong Lajong FC respectively.


THE COACH

Mariano Dias has previously represented Salgaocar FC and Churchill Brothers SC as a player and entered into the coaching arena as the manager of the India U-14 team at the AFC U-14 festival in 2007.

The former India international took charge of SESA Football Academy's 2009 campaign in the I-League division 2 and thereafter went on to lift the 2010 Santosh Trophy with Goa. He also had a brief stint with the Indian national team as an assistant coach.

Dias' holds an AFC 'A' coaching license and hence has been appointed as the coach of Churchill Brothers as it is mandatory for all the participating teams. Alongside him will be the veteran Sukhwinder Singh in the capacity of a technical director. His experience will be vital this season.


TRANSFER DEALINGS

TRANSFERS IN: The Goan outfit have re-signed Arindam Bhattacharya. Portuguese defender Euripedis Amoreirinha who will miss the start of the season due to personal reasons. Defensive midfielder Micky Fernandes has been roped in from Air India, while striker Balwant Singh and goalkeeper Presley Mascarenhas have joined Salgaocar FC. Hugo Machado will fill in the shoes of Beto in an attacking midfielder role.

"We were looking for a Korean and one from Lebanon, in fact, but they did not turn up. Finally we managed to get one striker from Syria," Dias updated to Goal about Churchill Brothers' fourth foreigner who is yet to be revealed by the club, that is if he gets the nod from the management.


The challenge of replacing quality foreign nationals continues

TRANSFERS OUT: Steven Dias chose to part ways with the club and instead ply trade in his home town with Mumbai Tigers. Goalkeeper Sandip Nandy, who was an integral part of their defense, chose to join Mohun Bagan for the coming season. Sunil Chhetri decided not to renew his contract and will be seen with Bengaluru FC. Balal Arezou moved to a club in Europe while star midfielder Beto has re-joined Dempo SC. Lamine Tamba has been roped in by Rangdaijied United. Goalkeeper Felix Dsouza has moved to Salgaocar FC while Tomba Singh, Xavier Vijay Kumar and Gurtej Singh have been released by the club.


FORMATION AND TACTICS

Quite a few changes can be expected in the team's line-up this term given the number of players who have decided to part ways with the club.

Arindam Bhattacharya has already sealed a regular spot in the club's Goa League matches, while Dharmaraj Ravanan may be paired with Naveen Kumar in the centre-back slot with Amoreirinha set to miss the start of the campaign .

Regular right back Denzil Franco is ruled out for the opening tie due to an injury, with Satish Singh is expected to start in his place.

In the middle of the park, India international Lenny Rodrigues will have the job of spraying the ball around with Hugo Machado being the link between the strikers and the midfield.

Bikramjit Singh and Bineesh Balan will have to prove themselves all over again as Richard Costa and Jaison Vales are likely to be handed a start.

"We are trying to work with two formations, that is, 4-3-3 with an attacking midfielder, as well as 4-2-3-1. Let's see which one we would require against which opponent. Mostly it will be the 4-3-3, as we have tried it in the Goa League and it has worked quite well," the coach revealed.


Man to Watch - Hugo Machado

Hugo Machado, 30, last turned out for Sanat Naft in the Iran Pro-League, and has played with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Quaresma, Carlos Martins and Joao Moutinho during his time at the Sporting Lisbon Academy. The midfielder will have the Herculian task of replacing playmaker Beto, who played a commanding role for Churchill Brothers last season.

"I think this time it will be Machado," Dias admitted. "He has the responsibility of feeding the strikers and creating opportunities to score goals for himself as well. Lenny [Rodrigues] will be our defensive midfielder, while Machado will be the attacking one behind the strikers."


SEASON'S TARGET

Currently leading the standings in the Goa League, the Red Machines might not have it easy as far as defending their I-League crown is concerned.

"Since we are the champions, everybody will be waiting to watch how Churchill Brothers play. We want to defend the I-League and this time we also want to win the Federation Cup. We have never won it as yet and so we will try," Dias stated.
 
However retaining the I-League title seems difficult given the number of players who left from last season. They haven't made a number of high profile signings to fill the void left and that could hurt them in the long run. If they do finish in the top five, it will be credible achievement. However it all boils down to how the new foreign players gel with the rest of the squad.

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