I-League has entered the final phase and battle at both ends of the table has intensified. Teams at the bottom of the table are struggling to survive the drop. United Sikkim looks certain to get relegated unless the Snow Lions spring some surprise in last few matches, Air India and Shillong Lajong after a decent start, to the campaign had a poor run of form while Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan after the derby fiasco has found themselves at the bottom of the table due to the point deduction.
Air India to survive one more year?
Played: 17, Points : 18, Games Left: 9
Air India lost their star players to bigger budget clubs this season and their form as dropped likewise. Their Talismanic Coach Santosh Kashayp was roped in by the Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. With new players and a new coach it was expected that Air India would struggle this season.
Inconsistent form in the league thanks to a porous defence is the biggest worry for them. The Pilots have conceded 33 goals so far and scored just 23 goals. The club has signed Afghanistan International footballer Mujtaba Faiz to bolster their defence but it will be interesting to see how the centre back performs. The Afghan International has to settle down quickly if he wants to save his side from getting relegated. Experienced players like John Dias have not lived up to expectations and the former Dempo player is woefully out of form.
The club has talent up front but the individual talent has to convert into the team work. The likes of Sauvik Ghosh, Pradeep and Mickey Fernandes have shown in the past that they can match best in the business. They have to apply all their experience in upcoming matches. The striking force of Nigerian Henry Ezeh and Junior Obagbemero has to fire in front of the goal regularly.
Air India will have to win all of their matches against teams below them and try to collect as many points as they could against stronger opponents. The club cannot afford to lose against teams like United Sikkim and Salgaocar. Air India’s new coach and former Mumbai FC U-19 coach Naushad Moosha will have his work cut out. The coach will have the luxury of a break in the I-League to know the players and plan out their strategy to survive in the league.
Can Mohun Bagan Survive the drop ?
Played: 15, Points : 6, Games Left: 11
It is a rare occasion when we see top clubs in the league battle for the survival in the league. One of the most reputed clubs in Indian football history Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan have found themselves at the bottom of the league. The fiasco of unfinished 1st leg Kolkata Derby will be remembered by many fans around the country and has caused Mohun Bagan’s current situation. Mohun Bagan refused to play in the second half of the match and they could have got banned for 2 years but AIFF showed leniency and as a form of punishment deducted all points they had collected till then.
After the ban Mohun Bagan had to start without a point in the kitty. They started the poorly by losing out to the Salgaocar FC. They followed it up by settling for a point against United Sikkim, Prayag and Kingfisher East Bengal. Despite having 11 games in hand the club has to play their hearts out to avoid the ignominy of relegation. The Mariners have a full squad at their disposal and coach Karim Bencharifa will be looking to extract maximum points from the available matches.
The club will be heavily depended on their talismanic captain Odafa Okali. The Nigerian will look to add a few more goals to his name while looking to get support from Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey. Tolgay, since his move from East Bengal to Mohun Bagan, has not been in his usual form. The striker has struggled to score goals and he will have to find his scoring boots.The Maroon and Green brigade have experience in the team to survive but they should not get complacent against weaker teams.
Mohun Bagan fans will be hoping that their team survives the drop. If the club failed to save themselves from relegation then this will not only be disastrous news for the Mohun Bagan fans but also for the I-League. Mohun Bagan is among the few clubs who have a huge fan base and add glamour to the league.
United Sikkim Need some Magic
Played: 20, Points: 12, Games Left: 6
The club has shown resistance but have failed to show creativity. Inexperience of the Indian contingent in the squad is clearly visible as they have failed visibly to put up a good show against the big boys in the league.Their massive 10-1 defeat against the Prayag United is the biggest loss of the season and one of worst losses in history of Indian football.
Their new coach Nathan hall has criticized former coach’s signings and brought some new faces in the league. The new players in the team will have a major role to play if they want to survive the drop. The Snow Lions look certain to get relegated and they have to win all of their remaining matches to entertain any hope of the survival.
Shillong Lajong To Fight For The Survival
Played: 20, Points: 19, Games Left: 6
After an impressive pre-season fans expected a decent performance from Shillong Lajong Football Club. But just like the other North East club in the league, Shillong Lajong have struggled as well. Their Scottish coach’s long ball theories have not worked in the favour of the North Eastern side.
The club, after signing Desmond Bulpin, has failed to deliver consistently in I-League. Apart from few home wins against bigger clubs they have not performed well – their away record is extremely dismal as well. Their away form has affected morale of the players negatively.
Apart from Michol Son none of the other foreigners have played well for Lajong, who recently released them and signed fresh set of foreigners. Edinho Junior is one of the biggest catch for them in this winter transfer window and joined them on loan from former English champions Blackburn Rovers. He will have major role to play in the team.
The players will need to play with a big heart and help the North Eastern side to survive in the league. They should concentrate on remaining home matches and try to get maximum points. A change in tactics is also needed – Lajong players must try to keep the ball on the ground and work it into the box. Experienced players like Renedey Singh and Sushil Kumar Singh will have to motivate youngsters to perform.