Important partnerships to look out for in Hero ISL 2019-20
Individual stars, no matter how good they are, can only drive their side so far on the back of their talents. For a team to establish their superiority over their rivals, teamwork is essential and the hallmark of a great team, anywhere around the world, is the formation of some great link-ups all over the pitch. The Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) is no different.
With the Hero ISL 2019-20 fast approaching, let's take a look at some of the important partnerships which can prove to be vital cogs for their respective teams in the upcoming campaign.
Sunil Chhetri - Ashique Kuruniyan (Bengaluru FC)
Bengaluru FC will go into Hero ISL 2019-20 as the defending champions but the departure of star striker Miku will be a telling blow to their ambitions of a successful title defence. In the last two seasons, the partnership between Miku and Sunil Chhetri has been at the heart of everything positive for Bengaluru and with the Venezuelan's departure, the onus will be on someone to step up and take his place to complement Chhetri. Spanish forward Manuel Onwu will most probably be Miku's like-for-like replacement in the squad but on the back of the recent link-up between Chhetri and Ashique Kuruniyan for the national team, it's hard to not get excited about watching the two reignite the chemistry at Bengaluru. Ashique's involvement has been a big positive for Chhetri in the national team, allowing him to flourish through the middle rather than cutting in from the left. Ashique's ability to drive with the ball with pace and hold it up in the final third will also help Chhetri make his late runs into the box - something which tends to bring out the best of the Indian talisman. We have already had glimpses of what the lethal combination brings to the table at the AFC Asian Cup and in the World Cup Qualifiers and it will be intriguing to see the two in action together for Bengaluru in Hero ISL 2019-20.
Roy Krishna - David Williams (ATK)
ATK’s rebuild this season under new coach Antonio Lopez Habas has seen the arrival of many top-notch attacking assets with international pedigree. Among them, the most notable names include forwards Roy Krishna and David Williams, who played together last season for Wellington Phoenix in Australia’s A-League. Krishna and Williams formed a lethal partnership for the ‘nixes' last term and notched up 29 goals between them, with Williams scoring 11 and Krishna accounting for 18. Krishna took home the Golden Boot and the Best Player of the Year award while Williams averaged close to 1.5 key passes per game. The combination between the Fijian and the Australian, which took Australia by storm last season, will definitely be the one to watch out for from the ATK camp in Hero ISL 2019-20.
Ferran Corominas - Jackichand Singh (FC Goa)
The understanding between Jackichand Singh and Ferran Corominas was one of the most overlooked strengths for FC Goa last season, and if other teams can't find a way to deal with the fearsome duo working in tandem, it may spell disaster for their defence. Jacki's tenacity on the ball and ability to drag defenders with him allowed Coro a lot of space and time in the middle, helping the Spanish wizard work his magic. Jacki's role to create space and opportunities for Coro will become even more important for the Gaurs in Hero ISL 2019-20 and fans will hope the duo can recreate the seamless synchronization that made them so dangerous last term.
Gianni Zuiverloon - Jairo Rodrigues (Kerala Blasters)
With Anas Edathodika moving to ATK, Kerala Blasters FC brought in former Delhi Dynamos FC defender Gianni Zuiverloon to partner Sandesh Jhingan at the back. The Blasters had a season to forget in the last edition of the Hero ISL and much of it was owing to their glaring defensive frailties. Kerala fans were hoping that the Zuiverloon - Jhingan combination would be key to fixing the issue. However, with Jhingan's long term injury, which may keep him out for the season, the onus will possibly be on Brazilian centre back Jairo Rodrigues to partner Zuiverloon. While Zuiverloon showed his worth playing for Delhi last season, it will be Rodrigues' first venture in India. The 26-year-old, however, possesses enough experience, having played in Brazil, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Japan, Iran and Indonesia, to adapt to his new surroundings and strike up a fruitful partnership with his new Dutch teammate.
Lallianzuala Chhangte - Jeje Lalpekhlua (Chennaiyin FC)
As a traditional fox in the box, Jeje Lalpekhlua excels when crosses are fizzed into the box from the sides, allowing him to showcase his positional awareness and finishing ability from close range. With Chennaiyin struggling to stretch games last season, thereby failing to allow the Mizo Sniper the option to play to his strengths, Jeje accounted for just a single goal in Hero ISL 2018-19 - his worse ever return in the five seasons. With fellow Mizoram-born player Lallianzuala Chhangte's arrival, however, Jeje will be looking to get his old form - one that made him one of the most lethal marksmen in the country - back. Chhangte's ability to pick crosses from out wide is well documented and his quick feet tends to force defenders into double marking him, which will allow Jeje a lot more space and time inside the box to deal damage. Chennaiyin fans will have a lot of hope pinned on the Mizo duo in Hero ISL 2019-20.
Piti - Noe Acosta (Jamshedpur FC)
With the signing of veteran Spanish midfielders Noe Acosta and Francisco Medina Luna, aka Piti, Jamshedpur FC will go into Hero ISL 2019-20 with two very potent creators to complement their strikers. Both players have extensive experience playing for top teams in Spain and are excellent passers of the ball. Piti is expected to largely operate on one of the wings while Acosta will most likely be used as a no. 10, playing in the hole just behind the striker. However, both players' versatility can help them interchange positions at will to confuse defences. Both players can also pose significant danger to any opposition with their pin-point set-piece deliveries.
Rowllin Borges - Paulo Machado (Mumbai City FC)
Following a stellar campaign with NorthEast United, 27-year-old midfielder Rowllin Borges signed for Mumbai City FC for Hero ISL 2019-20. Borges was used in a box-to-box role last season under Eelco Schattorie and it seemed to have unlocked a new dimension to his game. For the Islanders, he will partner experienced Portuguese midfielder Paulo Machado, who signed a contract extension with the side this season. Machado's leadership skills and experience in the middle of the park was on show for the entirety of last season and playing alongside the ace will only serve to make Borges better. Either of the two can sit back to control games, giving the other the freedom to maraud forward and create an overload in the opposition half.
Aridane Santana - Xisco Hernandez (Odisha FC)
Leading the line for newcomers Odisha FC in Hero ISL 2019-20 will be striker Aridane Santana, who is on loan from Spanish side Cultural Leonesa. Standing at a towering 6 feet 3 inches, the Spaniard will be one of the tallest players in Hero ISL 2019-20 and is known to use his frame well to hold the ball up and get on the end of crosses consistently from inside the box. With intelligent movement and his aerial prowess near the opposition goal, Santana can very well prove to be a nightmare to deal with for opposition defences this season. With his fellow countryman Xisco Hernandez in the squad, Santana will have no dearth of chances. Xisco, who won the title with Bengaluru last season, is a terrific crosser and passer of the ball and can strike up a lethal partnership with Santana in the final third.
Deyvison Rogerio Da Silva (Bobo) - Marcelo Pereira (Hyderabad FC)
The link-up between Brazilian Marcelo Pereira - a former Hero ISL Golden Boot winner from the 2016 season - and Deyvison Rogerio Da Silva or Bobo - a former Brazil U20 international - represents a mouth-watering prospect for not only the Hyderabad FC faithful but football fans in general. Most Indian football fans are already familiar with Marcelinho's abilities on the ball, courtesy his last three seasons in the Hero ISL. Bobo, on the other hand, is a clinical striker capable of finding the net at astounding frequencies. To reiterate, he scored 42 goals in just 54 appearances in Australia's A-League during his time at Sydney FC in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons and also holds the record for the most number of goals (27) ever scored by a player in a single A-League season (2017-18). The former Besiktas man has also won the Turkish league, the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, the A-League and several other trophies during the course of his career before coming to India. Marcelo's craft and guile on the ball, coupled with Bobo's ability to finish consistently can turn out to be a dynamic combination to look forward to in the Hyderabad team this season.
Asamoah Gyan - Martin Chaves (NorthEast United FC)
NorthEast's acquisition of Ghana icon Asamoah Gyan has to be one of the statement signings of the Hero ISL 2019-20 season. The striker is a proven goal scorer at the highest level, with an enviable record for a host of top clubs around the world and his country. The Highlanders will look to the enigmatic forward to lead their line in Hero ISL 2019-20. Sharing the goal scoring responsibilities with the Ghanaian legend will be 21-year-old Uruguayan striker Martin Chaves. Despite his tender age and lack of experience, Chavez is highly-rated back in his home country and has impressed during the Highlanders' pre-season matches. The combination of the veteran and youngster at the top end of the pitch might very well be a fruitful one for the Highlanders.
Which of these on-field partnerships are you looking forward to the most?