Kolkata: On a high after their Durand Cup triumph, qualifiers Mohammedan Sporting will face last season`s runners-up Pune FC as the seventh edition of the I-League kicks off in a low-key affair here on Saturday.
After the departure of ONGC, the I-League is being deprived of a title sponsor while the telecast issue is yet to be sorted out as an All India Football Federation official says the broadcast may only begin from round two.
The I-League had earlier suffered a setback as it was reduced to a 13-team affair after Mumbai Tigers pulled out, days after Pailan Arrows was disbanded by the AIFF.
There`s already a gloom especially in Kolkata after the collapse of chit fund companies as high budget team like United SC are left in the lurch without a title sponsor.
Further there`s a discontent among various clubs who have refused to loan out players for the upcoming IPL-style franchise tournament early next year.
Amid all this, the seventh I-League, and 18th overall (including the earlier National Football League) will begin tomorrow with three matches -- Mumbai FC v Sporting Club de Goa and Churchill Brothers v Salgaocar being the other two.
Having won the Durand Cup after 73 years yesterday, Mohammedan Sporting will look to start with a bang as they return to the top tier league after four years, while a new look Pune outfit will look to find rhythm under Dutchman Mike Snoei, who replaced Derrick Pereira.
Bucking the trend, Mohammedan Sporting have invested heavily with a star studded foreigners line-up in Luciano Sabrosa, Penn Orji, Tolgay Ozbey and Joshimar d`Silva.
With immense experience in Indian football, particularly in Kolkata, Mohammedan Sporting under Nigerian coach Abdul Aziz Moshood will be the team to watch out for this season.
"It`s an honour to guide the team to a victory after 73 years and it is their perseverance of all years (that paid). I respect them for that," the Nigerian said.
But Mohammedan Sporting will miss out the Brazilian defender Sabrosa who suffered an arm injury in the Durand Cup final against ONGC last night.
Among Pune FC`s foreigners, only Ivorian midfielder Douhou Pierre has previous experience of playing in India but the other three too have impressive profiles as the team has the focus on youth development this season.
English central defender Calum Angus is a former Portsmouth youth player while Australian striker James Meyer is a former Hertha Berlin youngster and A-League forward. Spanish-born Raul Fabiani is a former Villarreal `B` striker and current Equatorial Guinea international.
"Our main objective is to develop youngsters at the club. In this season, you will see good young players getting a fair chance in the first team," Pune FC coach Snoei said.