In a recent report, AIFF claimed a rise of close to 50% in the attendance during the I-league games. Brilliant. This edition of the premier football league in the country, could eventually turn out to be the closest race the fans have ever witnessed since it’s inception. With the clouds of unpredictability hovering over each and every fixture, every round becomes more eye catching and then raising numerous eye brows as the results pour in. Just before teams go into a break, and Federation Cup finally is upon us in the new year, lets look at this rounds’ matches and how could the ever changing table look like before the break.
Westwood’s side looking to bounce back
After four victories on the trot, Bengaluru FC was undone at home for the first time, by a gritty East Bengal side in the last match league match. Now the Blue Brigade welcomes Salgaocar, as they look to seal their three point lead before they go into a mini hiatus. Their strikers, especially India captain Sunil Chettri, alongside Sean Rooney had an off day in front of the goal, and they both would be hopeful to hit the back of the net. It will be interesting to keep an eye on who turns up as custodian for the home side as recent recruit Porei had a forgettable day in the last match. Liberian Menyongar would be the key man to watch out for in this match, as he would be looking to echo his performance as it was in the first leg at Duler Stadium.
Salgaocar FC, on the other hand, without a doubt would be hoping to avenge their defeat earlier this season. Derrick Pereira’s side has been without a triumph for six games now, which sees the Goan Greens slotted at the sixth position in the league with eighteen points. After a robust start to the season, the season is taking its toll on the side from Vasco, as they train to bring back the shine, which was imminent earlier. Gilberto, on the flanks would once again look to threaten and make an impact. Darryl Duffy upfront would be hoping to add to his tally of 8 goals so far and bring back his team to winning ways before the New Year.
A win for both the sides would be very critical in buildup to the title, as three points would cement the hosts at the top, whereas three points for Salgaocar could take them closer to the podium places.
Sporting Club looking to remain hot on the heels for summit position.
Oscar Bruzon has bought nothing short of a revolution at Sporting Clube this season. The club has registered their seventh victory as they clocked their third straight win, that too in a thumping fashion. Looking to continue from where they left, Bruzon is once again expected to deploy an attacking line up with Karpeh, Kalu and Victorino forming the attacking trio. All three of them got their names on the score sheet as they humbled an in form Shillong Lajong side. A victory here could see the Flaming Oranje finish the year at the top of the tree.
Travelling United Sports club side has had a topsy turvy season so far. Up against it financially, the club has come out with flying colors and surprised everyone with their determined performances so far. Five matches without a win has been a dull story for Elco’s side lately, but a refreshing victory in the last match against Police in the CFL would have pumped in some much needed confidence in the Purple Brigade.
This could be anybody’s game, but Sporting would be tagged as favorites as both the clubs jump into what could be a very vital year for both the clubs.
Can The Mariners end a dismal year on a high?
Mohun Bagan fans will be in a hurry to forget this year as their hopes of winning a maiden title slip away. The Mariners are currently slotted at the tenth position, garnering just three victories out of the fourteen played. These are real testing times for the head coach Karim Bencharifa, as he prepares his team for which could be the most important match for him during his reign at the club. Mohun Bagan welcome Pune FC in Kolkata, and a second loss against a high flying Pune side could very well see the back of the Moroccan. Captain Odafa and Christopher need to step up bigtime. A win in the Calcutta premier league against Techno Aryan would have definitely settled some nerves after a disheartening loss at the hand of struggling Dempo in the last I-League round. A very unlikely triumph in this match could witness the Kolkata giants move near the top half the table for the first time this season.
In contrast to their hosts tomorrow, Red Lizards would look back at this year and smile, as they prepare for their last game of the year. After qualifying for the AFC champions league qualification round, the team from Pune has enjoyed their best ever start to the league, as they sit comfortably at the third position, just three points of the leaders. Mike Snoei’s side showcased class in their last match by beating United Sports Club as they bounced back after consecutive losses. Owing to what happens in the match at Bangalore, Pune FC could very well finish the year level on points at the top, deservedly. Meyer, who scored and assisted one in the first leg earlier this season, would be once again raring to go.
Dempo finally finding their feet?
After a torrid start to the season, accounting for four losses and seven losses, Dempo finally came up with a performance which they could be proud of in the last round. Young Holicharan Nazary scored the only goal of the match, in a defensively robust performance from the Eagles against Mohun Bagan. Dempo now travel to JLN stadium in Shillong to face Shillong Lajong in their fifteenth match of the league, expecting a similar performance away from home. Without a doubt Arthur Papas has struggled to maintain any sort of predictability from the side, but this match will very well reflect at his tactics and his teams’ valor.
Shillong succumbed to a humiliating defeat in the last round against Sporting Club at the Duler Stadium. After taking the lead in the fourteenth minute through Matsugane, Shillong’s defence was ripped open for five times. Singto’s side are positioned at fourth in the league, seven points off the top, ergo making this match a very crucial one for the North Easterners. Cornell Glenn and Subhash Singh have been revelations at the club and riding on the back of their goals, Shillong for the first time managed to claim a podium spot. A victory here would not really impact the positions, but surely could increase the gap between themselves and chasing East Bengal side.
Shillong Lajong got the better of the Goan side earlier with a comfortable 3-0 rout of the home side with goals from Glenn and Haokip.
Bengaluru FC V Salgaocar FC, December 21, 3.00 PM
Sporting Club de Goa V United SC, December 21, 3.30 PM
Mohun Bagan AC V Pune FC, December 21, 5.00 PM
Shillong Lajong FC V Dempo SC December 21, 5.00 PM