Still basking in the afterglow of a first League Shield title, Jamshedpur FC will start as hot favourites against Kerala Blasters in the first of the two-legged semifinal of the 2021-22 Indian Super League at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda on Friday.
Jamshedpur have had a stellar season, with the club not only finishing top of the points table, but doing it with a record 43 points from 20 games - the most by a team in the league stage of the season. It is the first semifinal for the Red Miners and also the League Shield win has been testimony to the good work done by head coach Owen Coyle and the management.
Coyle’s side have only lost three games and their consistency is underlined by the fact that their longest winless run this season is three matches.
Striker Greg Stewart has been at the heart of Jamshedpur’s success, scoring 10 goals and providing 10 assists in the 19 matches he has played.
Stewart’s presence in the final third has made a great difference and Coyle would hope the Scotsman continues to deliver the goods in the knockout games as well. Another top addition to Jamshedpur’s ranks has been Daniel Chima Chukwu who arrived from SC East Bengal in the January transfer window.
Chima has scored seven goals so far in nine matches, failing to find the back of the net on only three occasions and helping Jamshedpur win eight of the nine games he played.
Kerala Blasters, meanwhile, reached the semi-finals for the first time since 2016 after finishing fourth in the table, staving off the challenge from Mumbai City. It was a season of highs for Kerala too as they strung together some impressive performances with players like Alvaro Vasquez, Jorge Diaz, Adrian Luna and Sahal Abdul Samad stepping up more often than not. The ‘fab four’ have shared 26 goals among them, also providing a lot of assists and leaving a mark in almost every game.
“It’s a very tough team. Now is a new chapter. There is a new fight and it will be a new day. It will be an open fight and I expect nothing but that. It will be a physical contest, many duels and tackles,” said Kerala head coach Ivan Vukomanovic.
“You need to be focussed over 180 minutes. There are two legs and there are many possibilities. We will do our best. We will try to use some moments to create something. We like to compete and we like to fight. I would like to believe we are a tough team to beat,” he added.
The last time the two sides met, Jamshedpur thrashed Kerala 3-0, and the two teams shared the spoils in the first leg