Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune
24th April, Kick off – 3 PM, IST
Churchill Brothers SC is ever closer to their second triumph in the I-league since the premier tier of club football was renovated in seven years ago. Veteran Subhas Bhowmick was seen offering prayers to god after Gabonese striker Henri slotted in the opening goal in a very crucial match against Mohun Bagan in the I-league on Sunday. Churchill Brothers now just need two pints from as many games to seal the title.
Oozing with confidence, the side from Varca now get ready to welcome Hong Kong’s Kitchee FC as a part of their AFC Cup group E encounter in Pune. The Red Machines are currently placed at the third position in the table with four points from as many games. Their opponents on Thursday are two points ahead of the Goan club with six points.
Team News and Tactics
Churchill Brothers SC
The home team would be kicking off their fifth match of the AFC campaign in scorching Pune heat at 3 PM. Sandip Nandy, who put in a man of the match performance in the last match against Mohun Bagan will be a sure shot starter for this match under the bars. Captain Ravanan would be holding the centre of defence alongside winter signing Lamine Tamba. India international Denzil Franco will take up the right back slot with either Saran Singh or Naveen Kumar slotting as the left back.
Steven Dias on his favourite right flank with Afghan Arezou on the left would take care of offensive duties. Lenny will be deployed in the center to fulfill his usual role of holding the ball and connecting the flanks. Young midfielder Ashley Fernandes has been shrewdly used by the Churchill staff and the he has played his heart out for the Goan side. He would be up against it once again as he is expected to the start the match at Balewadi Sports Complex. Striking department will be headed by two in form strikers- Indian football captain Sunil Chettri and Henri, both the players scoring individual braces in the last two matches to clinch important points in the I-League.
The Red Machines have lost only two games in their last eleven encounters, both courtesy their away fixtures in the AFC Cup. At home, their performance has been commendable.
The side form Hong Kong are positioned at the second place in the table, and with table toppers Semen Padang through to the knockout round, everything is left to play for as both the sides slug it out for the second spot before the penultimate round.
Kitchee FC in their last outing were blanked by the high flying Semen Padang in Indonesia. Last time these two teams met in Hong Kong, the home team mentored by Josep Gombau, rallied to bag all three points after a comfortable win. Coach Josep will be wary of the fact that his team becomes complacent in this match as Churchill would have their tails up after staggering performances under pressure in the league.
The south East Asian side would be going with their usual suspects. The build up to the match revolved around Zeeshan Rehman, the centre back of Pakistani origin, as he was denied entry into India via Delhi. The former Fulham player now has his Visa issues resolved and would be able to start tomorrow . Wang Zhenpeng is expected to start as the custodian with Cheun Kin Fung and the lanky Asian in the defense. Fernando will be overlapping form the back syncing with Gao Wen on the right flank. Captain Lo Kwan Lee will be stringing the moves alongside attacking midfielder Huang Yeng. Forwards will the ones to watch out for the Churchill defence- Jorge Tarres and Pablo Gonzalez.
The side from Hong Kong has lost their way in the BMA division 1 where they are now lagging behind South China. Kitchee FC hasn’t won in their last seven matches and would be raring to go tomorrow with indifferent weather conditions. With another slip up here, Kitchee would be left depending on other teams when they welcome Warriors FC at home in the last encounter.
Players To Watch Out For
The Indian captain has finally found his feet in the league. After scorching the Goan derby with his trademark free kicks and setting up Henri in the least match against Mohun Bagan, Chettri would be all fired up to make an impact on the continental stage at home.
Chettri’s counterpart from the opponent team, Spaniard Jorje Tarres has been in equally good form when it comes to hitting the back of the net in this competition. The veteran has hit three goals in his last two group E games and would be the man to watch out for Tamba and co. at the back.
Churchill Brothers 2 – 1 Kitchee SC
Buoyed by their emphatic victory over rampaging Mohun Bagan in the league, the Salcette side would be eager to have a go and register their second victory in the group. With just two points from their second title, the team can focus all of their energy and resources to sort out things in the AFC Cup. Kitchee has not been up to the mark recently and could be undone by the Goans.