SHILLONG LAJONG v EAST BENGAL
A football match conducted at an altitude of over 1500 meters above sea level is always a daunting task for any visiting team. Even though Lajong are involved in the relegation battle, it must be noted that they have lost only twice at their home ground here in Shillong. After a defeat in their last league encounter against JCT, the home side will try their best to keep their hopes alive by upsetting the Kolkata Giants. On the other hand, East Bengal made a rather dreadful start to the second half of the campaign, going down 1-2 against Pune FC in their last match. The Red and Gold brigade will have to improve their game a couple of notches, if they want to move up from their current seventh place standing. Baichung will miss the encounter due to suspension, but veteran striker Yakubu’s return will certainly boost their morale. Mehtab Hussain will be the key man for the Kolkata side, whereas Lajong will rely heavily on their defensive duo of Daniel Bidemi and Aibor to protect the goal-mouth.
East Bengal 0(3): 0(0) Lajong
The last match between the two sides was the recent Federation Cup final, which went down to penalty shootout, as both sides were unable to break the deadlock in stipulated 120 minutes of play. Eventually East Bengal came out victorious in the tiebreaker, to lift the 31st Federation Cup.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Lajong 0 – 1 East Bengal
CHIRAG UNITED v CHURCHILL BROTHERS
After the 1-5 thrashing in the hand of City rivals Mohun Bagan, Chirag would look to gain their lost confidence back in this crucial top of the table encounter. Defending Champion Churchill would also like to shake off their last round routing against Mahindra United, which has put their title aspirations in serious jeopardy. Churchill’s hope relies heavily on Odafa’s performance on any given day, and this time also they will be banking on the Nigerian’s striking prowess. For Chirag, Edmilson and Joshimar Martins will provide the rays of optimism.
Churchill 2 – 0 Chirag
Both the teams last met in the first leg of I-League, where Churchill convincingly defeated Chirag to end the Kolkata side’s unbeaten run in the league.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Chirag 1 – 2 Churchill
VIVA KERALA v DEMPO
The Kerala team, under the guidance of veteran coach Sreedharan, managed to secure a point against Salgaocar in their last match, and will be wishing for a similar scoreline against Dempo as well. But Dempo, currently topping the table, are playing like a well-oiled machine. Armando Colaco’s team will look to consolidate their lead at the top, with another thumping win. It is an open secret that Beto, the Brazilian playmaker, is the key player for Dempo. For Viva, MP Shakeer will be the player to watch out.
Dempo 3 – 1 Viva Kerala
Dempo narrowly won over Viva Kerala 3-1 in their last encounter. The scoreline is a bit flattering, considering the fact that it was the Kerala side which took the lead in the 17th minute and kept their opponents out till the last twenty minutes of the match. A late spell of attack by the Goan side earned them the late equalizer, which eventually broke the morale of the young Viva side and they conceded late goals.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Dempo 2 – 1 Viva Kerala
SPORTING CLUB DE GOA v MUMBAI FC
Mumbai FC is no doubt a better unit compared to the struggling Sporting Club, which is languishing at the bottom of the table. The Mumbai side can strengthen their current position with a comfortable win over the under pressure Goan outfit. Mumbai FC’s eleven game unbeaten run came to an end in the 13th round, and a fighting defeat against pole positioned Dempo – in round-14 – was their second defeat in a row. On the other hand, Sporting is still looking for their first elusive win in this campaign, and their only positive going into the match is the home condition. But given their current poor form, even sharing a point looks impossible.
Mumbai FC 2 – 1 Sporting Club
In their last encounter, it was the Mumbai side which came out triumphant. It was a closely fought match in the group stage of Federation Cup at S.M Dev Stadium, Silchar.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Sporting Club 0 – 1 Mumbai FC
MAHINDRA UNITED v AIR INDIA
Mahindra United are in red hot form, and their city rival coach Yusif Ibrahim knows this fact better than most of us. Mahindra produced a superb display of attacking football in their rampant win over defending Champion Churchill brothers in round-14, and they will look to put pressure on table-topper Dempo by winning this Mumbai Derby in a convincing manner. Mahindra United, so far, is the only undefeated team in this campaign, and their in-form striking pair of Muritala Ali and Mohammed Rafi will hope to increase their goal tally against the weak Air India defense.
Mahindra United 5 – 0 Air India
Mahindra United produced an emphatic win in the first leg encounter against the Airmen. Air India was literally torn apart in every department of the game, in that match.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Mahindra United 3 – 0 Air India
MOHUN BAGAN v PUNE FC
Under the new coach Satyajit Chatterjee, Mohun Bagn was at their attacking best against Chirag United in the round-14 encounter. The Barreto-Chidi combination upfront is a massive threat for any defense, and they will look to continue their good work in the Pune match as well. Pune FC did manage a win over Kolkata giants East Bengal in their last match, but they will find it difficult to crack the Mariner’s defense, comprising the likes of Deepak Mondal, NS Manju, Surkumar Singh and Rakesh Masih. Pune FC’s Indian national Custodian Subrata Pal can expect a tough game, and they would once again hope for a heroic display from their talismanic goalkeeper.
Pune FC 1 – 3 Mohun Bagan
It was Edeh Chidi’s hattrick that sank Pune FC’s boat in their last I-League encounter. Pune could only manage to pull one back in the injury time of the second half, which was the only consolation for them in that match.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Mohun Bagan 2 – 1 Pune FC
JCT v SALGAOCAR
The away win at Shillong has put the Punjab outfit at the 9th position, three places above Karim Bencherifa’s Salgaocar side. By tradition, JCT is always a tough nut to crack at their home condition, and Salgaocar’s recent form is not convincing enough for them to cause an upset there. Salgaocar’s main problem is the lack of finishing, and in all possibility they will find it tough to break the solid home defense. This would be a tight tactical game; midfield supremacy could be the decisive factor.
JCT 0 – 1 Salgaocar
Both sides locked horns in the recently concluded Federaion Cup, and it was a close game, with Salgaocar scrapping through by a solitary goal margin.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: JCT 0 – 0 Salgaocar