CHURCHILL v JCT
In a final bid for the title, Churchill will go all out against JCT, to clinch full three points from this match. JCT is struggling for form in away matches, and their away loss in the last round against Dempo highlights the fact that they are yet to invent a cure for this long term problem. Churchill’s last round I-League match against Pune FC had to be postponed because of their AFC Cup campaign; this gave them a full seven days break, and they will start afresh. JCT will be happy if they can get even a single point from this tie, as it might prove to be crucial at the end of the season.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: CHURCHILL 3—0 JCT
AIR INDIA v LAJONG FC
Lajong’s shock win against Mohun Bagan in round-18 was not enough for the North Eastern outfit to float above the relegation zone. But Stanley Rozario’s team is certainly on a high in the second half of the league, and there are more surprises to come from this young brigade. Air India, on the other hand, drew their last round derby against Mumbai FC, and are just two points above the relegation zone. In the last meeting between the two teams, Lajong produced a dominant 3-0 win over the Airmen. But after defeating East Bengal in round-17, Air India seems to be getting into the groove very well. Anil Gurung and Shekhokhei Tuboi will be the players to watch out for the Lajong side, and ND Opara will be the key man for the Airmen.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: AIR INDIA 1—1 LAJONG FC
MAHINDRA v DEMPO
An exciting match awaits the Cooperage crowd, when the top two teams face off in this battle for supremacy. Dempo maintained a crucial two point cushion going into this match, as both the teams managed to win their last round of matches. But the huge home support at Cooperage will be a matter of concern for Armando Colaco’s team. David Booth’s Mahindra are on a seven match unbeaten streak, and they will be motivated to win this tie to go to the top of the standings. The previous leg in Goa between them earned a point for each side, but an inform attacking combo of Muritala Ali and Md Rafi for Mahindra are capable of earning them a win in this virtual six pointer.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: MAHINDRA 2—1 DEMPO
CHIRAG v VIVA
Chirag United will look to revive their title ambition, which suffered a road-block against Mahindra in the previous round, by securing all three points from this home match. Edmilson will be available for this match, and his partnership with Joshimar upfront may prove to be too much to handle for the Kerala outfit. Viva is also on a steady run in the second half of the league, being undefeated in their last five matches. An interesting fact here is that Chirag have lost their last three home matches, whereas Viva remains unbeaten in as many away ties. In their previous encounter, the Kolkata side did manage a win, and Chirag coach Anjan Nath will be happy with a similar result in Kolkata.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: CHIRAG 1—1 VIVA
MUMBAI FC v PUNE FC
The goalless draw against Air India was Mumbai FC’s seventh continuous winless match in the campaign, which hurled them back in the fight against relegation. Pune FC got a lucky break for a week as their last round match against Churchill got postponed. After a steady run in the first half of the season, they have lost their last two matches; to revitalize their title hunt, a win is necessary. Pune’s defense has been nothing short of spectacular throughout, but the lack of goal-scoring opportunities is hurting them badly. Derrick Pereira must sort out this issue immediately if they want to pose any challenge for the title.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: MUMBAI FC 0—1 PUNE FC
SALGAOCAR v SPORTING GOA
Karim Bencherifa’s Salgaocar earned three crucial points from their round-18 match against Kolkata giants East Bengal, but they are still very much in the survival battle, hovering one point above the relegation zone. On the other hand, the Flaming Oranje, as they are fondly called by the fans, need to win almost all their remaining matches to ensure they stay afloat in the top flight. The previous meeting between the two teams went in Salgaocar’s favour, and Sporting will certainly be eyeing a revenge in this return Goan derby.
TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION: SALGAOCAR 1—0 SPORTING GOA
EAST BENGAL v MOHUN BAGAN
The biggest crowd puller in the country, the much anticipated Kolkata derby, has been postponed because of East Bengal’s AFC Cup campaign. The new date for this match is yet to be scheduled.