Who will be the #NewChampion? Hume, Schattorie, Doungel share their predictions

The Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 is all set for a gripping finale on March 17, at the Mumbai Football Arena, with two of the league's best, Bengaluru FC and FC Goa, set to lock horns for the coveted trophy.

The tie is, in every sense, a tight one to call considering how closely the two teams have matched each other during the course of the season. To put things into perspective, both sides were dead even in terms of points at the end of the league stage (34 from 18 matches). Bengaluru topped the table only by the virtue of their superior head to head record over the Gaurs.

With a photo-finish of a cavalry charge on the offing come Sunday, indiansuperleague.com asked a few Hero ISL superstars and head coaches to put their thinking caps on and pick their favourites. Here's what they had to say.

Iain Hume (Player, FC Pune City)

Prediction.

I think it's very open. Goa owe Bengaluru one after the last game in Bengaluru in the league (where Bengaluru were reduced to 10 men but still won 3-0). Bengaluru, on the other hand, are a team who are used to playing in high-pressure games. They've played in AFC Cup, they've won the Hero I-League, they reached last season's Hero ISL final.

Strengths and weaknesses of both sides.

We all know Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh's abilities and the goals they come up with. It's massive for them that Miku's back. They'll be missing Erik Paartalu who is a big part of their squad. On the other side, you have Goa, who are who they are. They play free-flowing football. They play with a belief and trust in the way they want to play. Ahmed Jahouh - he makes everything tick. In his own admission, I think he'll say he had a poor 2nd leg of the semi-final. Edu Bedia is always a threat and then you've got Lenny Rodrigues in there. You can't forget Ferran Corominas. Their front three have been brilliant all season - Brandon Fernandes, Corominas and Jackichand Singh. They've got an understanding and belief that every time they attack, they will score goals. It's going to be a big test for Bengaluru’s defence.

On both teams' season.

I think the league table shows everything. They were the top two teams. Bengaluru, for the 2nd year running, topped the table. They edged out Goa only in terms to their head-to-head record. In goal difference, Goa are top of the league. I think everyone might have guessed that this was going to be the final. They deserve to be there. It's going to be tough for both teams. I think it's going to come down to who can handle pressure.

Players to watch out for.

You have to look at the goalkeepers. They're massive. The big man from Bengaluru (Gurpreet Singh Sandhu) has been brilliant all season. Goa have brought back Naveen Kumar and he has kept the spot. It's going to be huge. The main thing for Bengaluru is going to be how they defend, how they can nullify the abilities of Goa. Bengaluru are very efficient in what they do. They work hard for 90 minutes.

Eelco Schattorie (Head Coach, NorthEast United FC)

Prediction.

Both teams will be 100% motivated. I don’t think there are any issues regarding suspensions or injuries. So that means both teams can put out their strongest 11. That’s always important. A final is a mental thing. In my opinion, I think Bengaluru have a little bit more chance because they have a little bit stronger mentality in the squad.

Strengths and weaknesses of both sides.

If I look overall, Bengaluru have an advantage. I think Bengaluru are physically stronger. That, I think, is the main reason why Bengaluru have an advantage. Goa are in a good run at the moment. I think it took Goa one and a half season to figure out that they needed to play with two foreign centre-backs because last season also they scored a lot of goals but were conceding a lot too. A few weeks ago, Goa played Bengaluru, Bengaluru got a red card. The coach of Goa right away makes a change, he takes out a centre-back and they lost 3-0. That means defensively they are not that well organized. I think there, Goa should be really careful. If they stay defensively organized, their chances to beat Bengaluru is through the wings because Bengaluru play a compact defensive game.

Players to watch out for.

Goa’s holding midfielder Ahmed Jahouh is a decisive player for them. If you can eliminate him, you cut off a big supply line for the forwards. Jackichand Singh, at the moment, is on a good run. So, he’s also important to eliminate. For Bengaluru, Miku is getting back in shape. Bengaluru have the advantage because of the physical and mental qualities.

Seiminlen Doungel (Player, Kerala Blasters FC)

Prediction.

For me, both teams are good. Since the beginning, they are in the top two, three. They are both competitive. If I’m going to predict one then I’m going for Bengaluru FC.

Strengths and weaknesses of each team.

For me, Goa have good midfielders and Coro is really good up front. Both the wingers are also good. Their forward line is very well-rounded. Sometimes, when under pressure, the defenders might have problems because Bengaluru are very dangerous while going forward. If they have the slightest hint of a chance, they will convert it into a goal. Bengaluru are also good at attacking. They have Udanta, Chhetri and Miku. They have been performing well from last season. They have a terrific understanding between themselves. Somehow, in the last three, four games, their midfield and defence have made a few mistakes. So, I think both teams are good and they have the same type of weakness.

Players to watch out for.

It’s really hard to pick because every player has their duty, their own way of performing. But to mention one name from Bengaluru, I think Udanta Singh is a huge part of their wins. He played very well in the semi-finals. I believe he will continue to do that. They also have Miku and Sunil Chhetri, who will score if they get even a single chance. It's hard to pick just one player but I believe Udanta will play a big role in the final. When it comes to Goa, they have their own roles in the game. But if I have to mention one name, I’ll take Ferran Corominas because we all know he is the top-scorer. He is dangerous in the box. I believe if he has a chance to score, he will surely convert. Ahmed Jahouh, too, is a good player. He has so much quality in his passes. In Hero ISL, I think he is the best midfielder. He is one player who can make a difference this year.

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