Kolkata: Bhaichung Bhutia`s United Sikkim Football Club will be the cynosure of all eyes as the preliminary phase of the Federation Cup kicks off with a match between Mohammedan Sporting and Ar-Hima on Thursday.
With veterans like Rennedy Singh, Quinton Jacobs, Karan Atwal, Sushil Singh, Govin Singh amongst others, group B`s USFC are the team to beat. Not to forget the opportunistic Babatunde who scored a gem of a goal in their last practice match against Mohun Bagan some days back.
Teams in the preliminary phase have been divided into two groups and the winner of each group makes it to the final phase which kicks off simultaneously in Kolkata and Pune from September 17.
In Group A, besides Mohammedan Sporting, Goa`s Vasco Sports Club stay the main contenders.
The black-and-white, who are being coached by Aloke Mukherjee, will depend a lot on their foreign recruits -- Theodore Sunday Wrobeh and Eduardo Da Silva Escobar.
Striker Dipendu Biswas may be past his prime, but his natural goal-scoring abilities may come handy for the Kolkata outfit. They would also bank on their home support to see the team through to the main phase.
Gavin Araujo coached Vasco SC are also likely to pose a serious threat to Sporting.
With Yorkin Nazarov and Bernard Pires in the midfield and Sherzod Nazarov and Ravshan Teshabaev upfront, Vasco, who missed qualification to the I-League by a whisker, will be itching to make it to the main phase.
Southern Samity, ONGC and Royal Wahingdoh are the other teams in group B.