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Goal.com starts a new series, where the head coach of the respective team tells you all that you need to know about their team before the Federation Cup...

MANAGER

Godfrey Pereira has been involved with the Air India set-up for a few years now, and will have no doubt benefited from learning under the wings of Santosh Kashyap. He could not have made a better start as the head coach of the Airmen, as he led them to Durand Cup glory in his first official assignment, beating city rivals Dodsal FC in penalties in the final.

TRANSFER DEALINGS
The Airmen Have Seen Several Of Their Stars Leave Over The Summer...

As is well known, Air India offer only a one year contract to their players and lost out on the services of top players like Manandeep Singh, Pawan Kumar, Sandesh Gadkari amongst others. Takayuki Omi meanwhile has been released by the side

A handful of players like Ramandeep Singh, Pratik Chaudhari, Prakash Thorat alongwith foreign recruits like Lamine Tamba and Henry Ezeh have been retained, with Godfrey Pereira hoping to complete their foreign quota soon.

With finances being tight, the best the Airmen could afford this summer are players like Souvik Chakraborty, Micky Fernandes and Pradeep Mohanraj, who have been released by their previous clubs as they were deemed surplus to requirements.


PRE-SEASON

Speaking about pre-season preparations, Pereira revealed, “Pre-season has been good. Due to financial issues, we could only afford a 10 day camp in Goa, but it went well. We trained on the beaches and played three good quality friendlies against Churchill SC, Salgaocar and Dempo.”

As mentioned above, they tuned up for the Federation Cup by lifting the Durand Cup, which shall definitely mean that the squad’s morale is at an all-time high, heading into the tournament.


TACTICS AND FORMATION

About the tactics employed by the former Indian International with the Airmen, Pereira informed, “Well we are a very flexible unit and can adapt as per the strengths of our opposition. In pre-season and the Durand Cup we have played a variety of formations, be it 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 as well as 3-5-2.”

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If pre-season line-ups are analysed, it is more likely that Air India will employ a more compact 4-5-1 during the tournament as well as in the I-League. A lone frontman like Henry Ezeh or Prakash Thorat, might expect to get support from Souvik Chakraborty in midfield, while Pradeep Mohanraj and Ong Lepcha provide good width down the wings.

At the back, Ramandeep Singh and Pratik Chaudhari, two of the players still on the roster from last season, can be expected to provide solidity at the back.

Putting pressure on the opposition and hitting on the counter-attack against better equipped sides may be the best way forward for Air India as they rely on pace.


KEY PLAYERS
With Several Stars Leaving, Who Can Star For The Airmen?

Having had a good look at the players at his disposal during pre-season, the Air India head coach is happy with what he has. He stresses, “We have a good squad and we also managed to retain some key players like Ramandeep, Prakash (Thorat), Pratik Chaudhari, while also re-signing two of last year’s foreigners in the shape of Henry Ezeh and Lamine Tamba.”

About the players to watch out for, Pereira reveals, “Souvik (Chakraborty), is a very talented lad. We have got him from Mohun Bagan, where he rose through the academy. He is an attacking midfielder who likes to cover the entire pitch. He has good endurance and is a great passer.”

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Apart from Souvik, Ramandeep Singh will be a vital player for Air India this season, as he provides experience and stability at the back. Not an eye-catching performer last season, but at 20 he has plenty of time to improve and adds good physicality to the backline.


FEDERATION CUP HOPES AND GROUP RIVALS
Can Air India Get Past Their More Fancied Rivals?...

While Air India did win the Durand Cup, Pereira is candid enough to accept that they have a tough task ahead of them in Group B. He admitted, “We hope to do well but we have been drawn in a tough group against Churchill Brothers, Mohun Bagan and another qualifier, so we shall plan according to the condition and take it as it goes.”

“I hope during the season we do not suffer from too many injuries to our main players, as we have a thin squad.”

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As said by the Airmen head coach, Group B has two traditional heavyweights in the form of Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers, so they shall find it tough to progress However they showed in the Durand Cup that they can grasp an opportunity with both hands if given a chance and hence will be ready to capitalize on any slip-ups made by either of the two sides.


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