ISL 2023-24, Punjab FC preview: Newly-promoted side look to make big impression on debut
Punjab FC have etched its name in the history books by securing top-flight status, becoming the first Indian club to earn promotion to the Indian Super League (ISL).
Punjab FC have etched their name in the history books by securing top-flight status, becoming the first Indian club to earn promotion to the Indian Super League (ISL). The Shers, as they are affectionately known, are the latest entrants in the ISL, and Indian football enthusiasts will witness 12 teams vying for eternal glory in the league's milestone tenth season.
As they ascend to the top tier of Indian football, fans and supporters of Punjab FC will have great expectations and ambitious hopes for the upcoming ISL season.
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During their journey to the pinnacle of Indian football, Punjab FC dominated the I-League last season, triumphing in 16 of their 22 matches in the previous campaign while suffering only two defeats all season. They clinched the title and their spot in the ISL with a game to spare.
They finished atop the standings with 52 points, a comfortable 10 points ahead of the second-placed Sreenidi Deccan FC. Along the way, they scored a league-leading total of 52 goals, showcasing the attacking prowess of Staikos Vergetis’ side. Notably, they exhibited equal discipline in their defensive half, conceding just 16 goals while recording 12 clean sheets.
Performance last season
However, the road ahead in their inaugural ISL season won't be a walk in the park for them, as other ISL clubs have also bolstered their squads. Nevertheless, Punjab FC are not here merely to make an appearance; they are determined to prove their mettle on the big stage.
Team composition and transfer dealings
Punjab FC began the 2023-24 season with the Durand Cup where they found themselves placed in a group alongside the Kolkata giants East Bengal FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, and Bangladesh Army FC. Despite managing only one point during the group stage, they displayed a commendable performance in the tournament, facing off against strong opponents.
However, in the final week of the transfer window, Punjab FC made some significant signings, with the most notable being the Colombian striker Wilmar Jordan Gil, who was secured on the deadline day.
The Shers retained three pivotal players - Kiran Limbu, Luca Majcen, and Juan Mera - all of whom had outstanding performances in the previous season. Additionally, they bolstered their squad with Madih Talal and Dimitrios Chaatzisaaias.
Apart from their foreign acquisitions, Punjab FC also added several talented Indian players to their ranks, many of whom have prior experience in the ISL and are eager to prove themselves. This list includes Prasanth K, Mashoor Shereef, Leon Augustine, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Ricky Shabong, and Nikhil Prabhu.
Outs: Aleksandar Ignjatovic, Shankar Sampingiraj, Juan Nellar, Deepak Devrani, Valpuia, Aphaoba Singh, Tejas Krishna and Pranjal Bhumij
Ins: Prasanth K, Mashoor Shereef, Leon Augustine, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Ricky Shabong, Nikhil Prabhu, Madih Talal, Wilmar Jordan, Sweden Fernandes, Melroy Assisi, Dimitrios Chaatzisaaias, Kingslee Fernandes, Ranjeet Pandre, and Nitesh Darjee.
For the full squad of Punjab FC, click here.
Slovenian forward Luka Majcen presents the most formidable offensive threat for Punjab FC. Since his acquisition from Gokulam Kerala FC in 2022, the 34-year-old has emerged as the primary attacking force for the Shers. He has notched 16 goals and provided three assists in 22 matches across all competitions so far.
Majcen has proven himself as a prolific goal scorer, a provider of crucial assists, and a commanding presence on the field for Punjab FC. With 16 goals and three assists under his belt, he clinched both the I-League Golden Boot award and the Best Player of the League award.
Juan Mera began his career in India with East Bengal FC in 2019 and quickly became a fan favorite due to his technical skills and flair in dribbling. The Spanish midfielder also played for NEROCA FC before joining Punjab FC ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Mera has continued to showcase his abilities with his new club and has been instrumental alongside Majcen in securing their promotion to the Indian Super League. His talent in orchestrating attacks from midfield and contributing to his team's goals has earned him significant fame among fans. The 29-year-old scored 10 goals in 18 games, finishing as the third-highest scorer in the I-League last season.
Wilmar Jordan Gil
Punjab FC's new signing, Wilmar Jordan Gil, is a familiar face in the ISL. The 32-year-old has joined the club following a season with NorthEast United FC, during which he scored a total of 15 goals across all competitions.
The Colombian striker joined the Highlanders midway through the 2022-23 season and made an immediate impact. His prolific scoring ability saw him net eight goals for the Highlanders in just 11 ISL matches. Wilmar carried his scintillating form into the Hero Super Cup, where he scored seven goals, leading his team to the semifinals and securing the title of the tournament's highest goal scorer.
With Gil now aiming to maintain his goal-scoring prowess at his new club, he and Majcen together are poised to present a significant threat to the opposing defence.
Punjab FC will face the ISL Cup winner, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, in their inaugural game in the ISL. This away fixture will take place in Kolkata on the 23rd of September, followed by another away fixture against FC Goa.
Their first ISL home game will be hosted at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi on October 6th, where they will play against NorthEast United FC.
For the full fixture of Punjab FC, click here.