DEMPO v JCT
Dempo demolished defending champions Churchill Brothers 4-2 to station themselves at the top of the table. After their shocking defeats in rounds 15 and 16 against minnows, the morale-boosting win against Churchill took them two points clear of nearest rival Mahindra United.
In the meanwhile, JCT also extended their undefeated run to four consecutive rounds beating Mumbai FC in their last league match. But JCT will be concerned with their away form in this campaign with just two wins so far.
In the first leg match between the two teams, it was Armando Colaco’s Dempo that came out triumphant in JCT’s own den – Ludhiana. So the boys from Punjab will be looking forward for revenge of their home defeat.
Sunil Chetri’s departure to USA Major League Soccer is a crucial blow for Dempo, and JCT will surely try to exploit the home side’s rather inexperienced attacking prowess to at least snatch a point from this away game.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Dempo 2—0 JCT
MUMBAI FC v AIR INDIA:
The Mumbai derby, involving these two teams, always brings out some exciting football for the viewers. Their fierce rivalry is expected to come out on the surface in this match. Air India squad will be high on confidence after defeating biggie East Bengal in round 17.
Mumbai FC is winless in last six matches and they will desperately try to get full three points from this match to strengthen their current 9th position in the standings.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Mumbai FC 1—0 Air India
MOHUN BAGAN v LAJONG FC:
Mohun Bagan’s title aspiration faced a tough road-block in last two rounds, when they drew their round 16 match before going down against bottom placed Sporting Club in the last league encounter.
An out of form Chidi Edeh is their main point of concern as Barreto is not being able to carry the attack on his own. Also, the recent reports of alleged rift between their Japanese recruit Sueka and coach Satyajit Chatterjee landed them in a spot of bother.
On the other hand, Lajong – currently fighting the relegation battle – earned full three points in the last round against Pune FC and the north-east boys will look to cause another upset in Kolkata, which will propel them out of the drop zone for the time being.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Mohun Bagan 3—1 Lajong FC
SPORTING GOA v VIVA KERALA:
After getting their first taste of victory against Mohun Bagan, Sporting Club de Goa will look to close the seven point gap to their closest rival in the battle for survival. Viva dropped two crucial points in their last match, when a very late equaliser from Mahindra dashed their hope of another home win.
The last meeting between these two teams was a goal fest; Viva winning by a comfortable 4-2 margin. But this time the story might be written in a different way when they face the Goan tigers who have just tasted the winning blood.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Sporting Goa 1—1 Viva Kerala
SALGAOCAR v EAST BENGAL:
This is a revenge match for Salgaocar coach Karim Bencherifa. The defeat against East Bengal in Fed Cup semis was the prime reason for the then Mohun Bagan coach Karim to receive the boot from the Green & Maroon camp. He fell short of Phillipe de Ridder’s shrewd footballing acumen in the tactical battle between two high profile coaches.
But East Bengal’s current pathetic form has brought a golden chance for the Moroccan coach to settle the score against his Belgian counterpart. East Bengal team is mentally and physically drained at this moment and Baichung Bhutia’s absence due to hamstring injury is a big advantage for the Salgaocar team.
In last league match against Chirag, Salgaocar suffered their first defeat under Karim; but they will certainly be a confident side at their home soil while facing a depleted East Bengal squad.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Salgaocar 1—2 East Bengal.
CHIRAG UNITED v MAHINDRA UNITED:
The Indian Red Devils, currently placed second in the standings, should expect a tough fight when they will take on third placed Chirag United in this top of the table fixture. Both the teams boast of a very flexible and talented squad and in all probability, this match has all the credentials to be termed as the match of round 18.
Although Chirag will not be availing the services of Edmilson, who is under suspension, but his strike partner Joshimar Martins – currently the top goal scorer in the league – would look to continue his goal-fest in Mahindra match as well. Mahindra will also look forward to their deadly attacking combo of Muritala Ali and Md Rafi to fire in this crucial match and earn home three important points.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Chirag 1—2 Mahindra
PUNE FC v CHURCHILL BROTHERS’:
Pune FC, the surprise package of the season, has faced two consecutive defeats in last two rounds against bottom placed clubs – Air India and Lajong FC. Defending Champion Churchill Brother’s are also in a spot of bother; as their title credentials encountered a dent when they had to face humiliating defeat against Dempo in their last league match.
Only three full points can revitalize the slightest title hopes both the teams still have and they will be desperate to get back to the winning ways from this match onwards.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: Pune FC 0—1 Churchill.