The Round-16 of the I-League will begin with the Oilmen looking to add yet another feather to Santosh Kashyap’s cap, while Churchill will be up against the bottom side United Sikkim, in wake of extending the lead at top, while Dempo and East Bengal will look to play catch-up and hope for any kind of slip from the Red Machines. With Pune FC not featuring this weekend, all eyes would be on these four sides. Prayag too, will be on the lookout for their third win in a row.
ONGC to continue fairytale run
Having taken a strong liking to Delhi, ONGC have looked near unbeatable in Ambedkar Stadium. Having started shakily here under Subrata Bhattacharya, the run has been bettered under Kashyap, scalping ten points from four games, beating the like of East Bengal on the way. They have been in red hot form off-late with all players stepping up to the plate. With Eric Brown missing the game, owing to his red card against the Arrows, Katsumi Yusa will have to lead the lines on his own and remains the Oilmen’s player to watch out for. Full-back Sachin Gawas has also been good off-late.
This weekend they are up against a struggling Salgaocar side, undergoing transition and with the match slated to take place at Delhi, the two time national champions are in for a tough time. The weather too might take its toll on the Goan side, with Delhi being way colder in contrast to Goa. Salgaocar registered their first win of the season late last year, in the 13th week of the league and have looked down since. Midfielders Quinton Jacobs, Francis Fernandes and striker Milagres Gonsalves will have to step up their game in case the Goans are looking to salvage anything from the game.
Prayag on a hat-trick
Prayag after having slipped in between, seemed to have picked themselves up with impressive wins over defending champions Dempo and in form Pune FC. Prayag would have got back their belief and confidence coming on the back of two impressive wins. The purple brigade would also be happy with the form of the trio of Lalkamal Bhowmick, Carlos Hernandez, Dipak Mandal and Ranti Martins. Ranti Martins will continue to be the big spender’s biggest threat for Sporting Clube’s defence.
Sporting Clube after the 8-4 drubbing at the hands of city rivals Churchill Brothers, have bounced back well to get two points from two games including a last minute thriller against the Airmen. The Goans will be relying on their foreign recruit Ogba Kalu to control the midfield yet again and give them a chance in the game.
Colts desperate to cut short Airmen’s flight
The AIFF developmental side after having slumped to a couple of heavy defeats, will be looking to get their campaign back on track. Arthur Papas was clearly dejected after the defeats and would have given his boys a hard lesson and they would look to bounce back. Pailan look good on the attack with the duo of Alwyn George and Holicharan Narzary, which may prove deadly against any side. Pailan needs to tighten up their defence and their midfield needs to hold up play. If things go their way, the colts have a fair chance against Air India.
Air India on the other hand, have had a decent last couple of games after a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Salgaocar. Air India is at home against Pailan and given the form of both the side, Air India would feel they are in with a good chance. Air India’s Elijah Junior will be the man to watch out and Arrows need to be wary of the attacking duo of Pradeep Mohanraj and Henry Ezeh as well.
Dempo to pile on Lajong’s misery
Shillong Lajong will host the defending Champions this weekend looking to rescue their campaign, hanging 12th in the table, well in the relegation zone. Lajong has had a torrid run going down three games on the trot, with the goalless draw against Sporting Club last week bringing in some sort of respite. Playing at home and backed by a hefty crowd, the Shillong outfit will be looking to pull off an upset, but it seems highly unlikely. Minchol Son would yet again be their key man, holding the Lajong defence. Friday and Sushil Singh would look to combine to give attacking threat to the home side.
Dempo had a week off and would have got time to get their focus back. After a disappointing draw against Mumbai FC and a last gasp loss to Prayag United the defending champions will be looking to come back strong. East Bengal’s loss last week has given a new window of opportunity to Dempo and they cannot afford anymore slip-ups in title race. Joaquim Abranches and Clifford Miranda will be Dempo’s main threats in absence of Ryuji Sueoka, who is unsure of a start. The tall and sturdy Koko Sakibo against Minchol Son can prove to be a fascinating contest. An easy three points for Dempo seems to be on the cards.
The Red and Golds look to avoid any more hiccups
Trevor Morgan’s side went down to ONGC in the last game, taking their tally of losses to three in last five games. Considering the Red and Golds were hot favourites for the title this season, the recent run wouldn’t please them one bit. Morgan might be looking to ring in some changes to revamp the dynamics of his side and Sanju Pradhan may get a start. Nigerian duo of Penn Orji and Edeh Chidi are the Red and Golds main threat up front, coupled with a rock solid defence would start the game as clear favorites, but would be wary of Khalid Jamil’s side, who have already pulled off few upsets.
Khalid Jamil’s Mumbai FC on the other hand will be happy with their run so far and will be looking to put a disappointing 2-2 draw against Snow Lions behind them and take the bull by its horns. Mumbai have been rather impressive with Evans Quao and Yakubu shining in particular, while Nicholas Rodrigues has marshaled the wings well. Considering all the factors such as form, squad, confidence, Mumbai will give the East Bengal side a tough time.
Churchill Brothers look to maintain top spot
Churchill Brothers have been consistently impressive this season and will be looking to continue their winning run with against the bottom placed United Sikkim, considering Mohun Bagan is out for the season. Churchill have been scoring goals at will and have held their lines well. Their neat passing and tricky play has wreaked havoc for the oppositions and this weekend is expected to be nothing different. With Lenny in the middle, Akram leading the line of attack and Dias on the wings, any opposition must be in fear, but Churchill’s key man yet again this season is captain Beto, who has had influence way above par and have won the Man of the Match prize in each of past three games . United Sikkim are in for a hard time.
United Sikkim have certainly showed improvements under the Australian Nathan Hall, who looks to induct his philosophy of short and neat passing. The team must be proud of their display, though they lie at the bottom, not many expected any better. It’s more of a learning curve than anything for the young squad. Against Churchill and the kind of form they are in, United Sikkim may well end up as the losing side. Youngster Linekar Machado, Nima Tamag have been really good for the Snow Lions and will continue to be their team’s go-to men.
ONGC 2-0 Salgaocar
Sporting Club 0-3 Prayag United
Air India 1-1 Pailan Arrows
Shillong Lajong 0-1 Dempo
East Bengal 2-1 Mumbai FC
Churchill Brothers 4-0 United Sikkim