BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on twitter
With Christmas almost upon us, I-League debutants Bengaluru FC will be going in the break at the summit but which players have graced the league with their form so far?
Dempo SC, East Bengal, Rangdajied United FC and Salgaocar FC have no representatives in the first 11 while Mumbai FC and Mohammedan Sporting players failed to make it in our squad of 18.
Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Shilton Paul has done justice to his starting position by featuring in our team of the week as many as four times for a side who are sixth on the table but have the second best defensive record, conceding only 13 goals.
Ever since Rangdajied United FC have roped in Subrata Paul among the on-loan players from IMG-Reliance, the promoted outfit have gained confidence. However, the goalkeeper is set for a stint with Danish team FC Vestsjaelland which will leave Santosh Kashyap with the task of finding a replacement in January.
We have employed a three-man back-line which boasts the best in the business.
Sporting Clube de Goa are second in the table, conceding as many goals as Mohun Bagan, and it wouldn't be possible if not for the resolve of Mathew Gonsalves and Gonzalo Hinojal Neila guarding the Flaming Oranje citadel.
Pune FC owed their early rennaisance to Callum James Angus who has not only been brilliant defensively but scored from some set-pieces too. The English defender had a tough fight with Haroon Fakruddin Amiri but had to be favoured due to Mumbai FC's inferior goal difference.
Although East Bengal have conceded the least number of goals in the league (12) so far, they still have matches in hand as compared to the other teams. Raju Gaikwad, who is known for his long throw-ins, is included on the bench besides Pune FC's Anas Edathodika.
Moving forward, Bengaluru's Beikhokhei Beingaichho is the obvious choice on the right wing. The 23-year-old has bedazzled everyone with his scintillating pace and effectiveness. He has graced three team of the week selections.
In the middle, we have a promising under-23 player from United Sports Club. Souvik Chakraborty is among those who has the ability to make an impact whenever he has the ball at his feet.
It was difficult to sacrifice Sporting Goa's Arturo Garcia, who cannot be benched either owing to the four foreigners rule. Pune FC's Douhou Pierre makes the cut in place of the Spaniard. The Côte d'Ivoire national can dictate the pace of the game as and when required.
Boithang Haokip has two beautiful goals via free-kicks to his name while the Manipuri has been instumental in garnering results for Shillong Lajong FC.
On the bench, Sporting's Rowllin Borges is another engineer in the center of the pitch while Mohun Bagan youngster Ram Malik and Salgaocar FC's workhorse Francis Fernandes could prove effective enough, although the latter was marginally overworked after the international games in November.
Among the top scorers in the league so far, with nine goals from 15 outings, the Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri has shown why he was named All India Football Federation's (AIFF) "Indian Player of the Year".
After leading defending champions Churchill Brothers across the finish line last season, Chhetri has done exceedingly well to adapt to his new role on the left side under coach Ashley Westwood without complaining while that has not stopped him from finding the back of the net either.
Shillong Lajong's Cornell Glen is our fourth and final foreigner in this starting line-up. The 2006 World Cupper with Trinidad and Tobago is a treat to watch with his incisive first touches and tricks while also being of the opportunistic nature when it comes to scoring goals.
On the right of Glen is Churchill Brothers SC's top scorer Balwant Singh who has scored half (6) of his side's goals, while Dempo SC and India international Jeje Lalpekhlua makes it on the bench for his hard work with the Golden Eagles.
Mohammedan Sporting's Josimar da Silva Martins is the joint top scorer with Chhetri but was not included our team because of his side's lack of consistency.
|BEST I-LEAGUE PLAYERS XI