New Delhi: Speculation can be a futile exercise but Delhi Dynamos, notwithstanding a one-goal deficit, are expected to hold sway when they host Kerala Blasters in their second leg Indian Super league (ISL) semifinal here tomorrow.
Quiet for the past fortnight since the 5-1 drubbing of FC Goa, the setting is apt for Delhi Dynamos to unleash the attacking brand of football that made them such a dangerous proposition in the third season of the franchise-based league.
An explosive forward line, led by the mercurial Marcelinho, could hold the key for Dynamos as they eye a maiden ISL final berth at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the fortress, where the Lions have not lost a single game this season.
Delhi Dynamos suffered a 0-1 defeat away in the first-leg semi-final but as they lock horns again, they will have enough reasons to believe they can overturn the deficit and make it to their first-ever final.
Heading into the must-win game in front of what should be a good turnout, Delhi have a few things they can take confidence from.
Besides being the only team to have not lost a home game, Dynamos have scored 18 goals at JLN, the most by any team in ISL this season.
"When we play at home, it is an advantage for us. To play in front of our fans is an advantage, and we are fortunate to have the second match at home and it is a good opportunity for us. I hope we are able to utilise this opportunity," said Delhi Dynamos coach Gianluca Zambrotta.
Delhi were disappointing in their away clash as they failed to trouble Kerala defence with strikers like Marcelinho Pereira and Richard Gadze having little impact on the game.
Even marquee player Florent Malouda, also the captain, was found wanting but as they return home, all of them can be expected to find form if they are to avoid another disappointment like last season when they lost to FC Goa in the semi-finals.
Tomorrow, Malouda will look to assert himself and dictate play and provide able support to the trio of Gadze, Kean Lewis and Marcelinho.
Interestingly, Delhi have scored just one goal in three ISL knockout matches.
Kerala Blasters need only a draw to qualify for their second final in three years. They will be keen to overcome Delhi or at least hold them as they will then return to Kochi for the grand finale.
That they have an unimpressive record away, is matter of concern for Kerala Blasters. Steve Coppell's side has conceded 11 goals away from home this season, the most among four semi-finalists, and managed to score just four on the road, the fewest by any team.
"We will just go out and play and I don't think you can set out and decide that we will defend or counter-attack and the game has an ebb and flow to it. But at home knowing that they have to score goals and beat us, so they might have more urgency in their play and we might be pressurised a little bit more and there is no way we will go there thinking we are 1-0 ahead. We will defend it but we will just go there and play and see what happens," said Coppell.
Kerala Blasters are the only away team which failed to score in Delhi this season.
Besides, they are on a four-match winless run away from home. Even if they fail to score again and fail to win, it will be fine with Coppell. All that his team needs to do is ensure Delhi Dynamos do not win to return to Kochi for one final battle.
Blasters midfielders Mehtab Hossain and Azrack Mahamat have gone about their job diligently, and Coppell also relies a lot on forwards C S Vineeth, Duckens Nazon, Kervens Belfort and Mohammed Rafi. For sure, the in-form Vineeth will be the man to watch out for.
The impressive Sandesh Jhingan, as usual, will have his task cut out on the right.
Up against the fluent Delhi forward line, the role of men like Aaron Hughes and Cedric Hengbart at the back will be key. Delhi will hope the defensive duo capitulates under pressure.