Dempo, JCT seek to maintain unbeaten streak without top strikers

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New Delhi, Dec 15 (UNI) National League champions Dempo would look to consolidate their top spot with a win against JCT when the two unbeaten sides take on each other in a crucial sixth round of the inaugural I-League match at the Ambedkar Stadium here tomorrow.

The Goan side are on top of the table with eight points from five games with four wins and one draw while the Punjab team are second with six points from the same number of matches with three wins, one draw and one loss.

With at least three India international players and three top foreign recruits in their ranks, Dempo would be favourites every match in the league but Sukhwinder's boys have also having a fine run in the league so far having beaten Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in the Kolkata sides' backyards and a comprehensive 3-0 win over Churchill Brothers at home.

The millmen, however, had an uninspiring show in the fifth round against sixth-placed Air India in Mumbai where they played out a goal-less draw and have to pulled out a vastly improved performance if they want to beat the holders and climb to the top.

One factor which would give psychological advantage for the Punjab boys would be that their rivals are playing for the first time outside Goa where the climate is still warm and humid while there is nip in the Delhi air and JCT would surely like to take advantage of home-like weather tomorrow.

Dempo coach Armando Colaco, however, dismissed such a notion saying the temperature seemed to have risen today as compared to when they landed here yesterday and if it remains like this tomorrow his players will not have any problem.

The Goan side will be without former JCT striker Chidi Edeh and Anthony Pereira would have to switch from right flank to pair with prolific scorer and captain Ranty Martins.

Another India player Clifford Miranda has not recovered from his injury and diminutive Jerry Jirsingha is also injured.

Colaco, however, is not a worried man about the non-avilability of Chidi or any other player as he has the bench strength.

''Nicolau Borges is doing well and Pereira has paired with Ranty last year and had won the NFL. So there is nothing to worry,'' he said.

What gave Colaco the confidence was that former captain and playmaker Roberto Mendis Silva (Beto) is in fine touch and has scored thrice in the tournament so far.

Silva and India midfielder Climax Lawrence will be supplying the goal-bearing passes to Ranty and Pereira. There is also Nicolau Borges who had scored twice against Mohun Bagan at Salt Lake.

The biggest setback for JCT against the formidable rivals would be the absence of Delhi boy and India striker Sunil Chhetri who will sit out tomorrow because of two yellow cards.

In Chhetri's absence veteran Parveen Kumar will have to pair with tournament top scorer Eduardo da Silva Escobar and it has to be seen whether the Brazillian, who is in fine nick, could create the same fear in the Dempo box especially when India defender Mahesh Gawli will be out there to mark him.

JCT forward line will also be depleted with the second booking of Gurwinder Singh in the last match against Air India. Besides, India defender Renedy Singh will also sit out due to injury though former India defender Narinder Singh has come back to take his place.

Colaco was confident that his boys would maintain their unbeaten record. ''JCT are a good side, we can not be complacent. But, my boys are high on confidence especially after winning against Mohun Bagan,'' he said.

On the other hand, canny Sukhwinder did not want to show any concern about the absence of Chhetri or Renedy, saying, ''In a long tournament, players get booked or injured, this is not new thing. It so happens that he (Chhetri) had to sit out tomorrow. We have to defend our goal and I am confident my defenders will do their task tomorrow.'' Teams (From): Dempo: Ranty Martins, VP Satish Kumar, Veleriano Rebello, Mahesh Gawli, John Dias, Pio Rodrigues, Cressan Antao, Anthony Pereira, Climax Lawrence, Roberto Mendes Silva, Nicolau Borges, Peter Carvalho, Abhijit Mondal, Domonic Noronha, Clefton Gonsalves, Joaquim Abranches, Sevanand Golgaonkar JCT: Karanjit Singh, Baldeep Singh (Sr), Anwar Ali, Julius Irabor Akpele, Daljit Singh, Baldeep Singh (Jr), Baljit Singh Saini, Jaspal Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Harish Sharma, Rakinderjit Singh, Shivraj Singh, Mukhwinder Singh, Narinder Singh, Abdul Latif Seriki, Prashant Dora, Eduardo da Silva Escobar UNI

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