The first six rounds of the I-League have given fans only the slightest hint of how the season would pan out, with many shocks and surprises being witnessed in the first few games. Champions Churchill Brothers have failed to win any of their games, while Dempo, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting haven’t had the best of starts either. Salgaocar, Pune and Sporting Clube have had favorable results, while Bengaluru FC have made the most of their five consecutive home games, to sit at the top of the table with 13 points. East Bengal have only played a couple of games, whereas Shillong Lajong, United SC and Mumbai FC have all had mixed starts so far. On the other hand, newly promoted Rangdajied United lie at the bottom of the league table, with 2 points from their 6 games. With the seventh round of games kicking off on Saturday, with Bengaluru’s away clash at East Bengal being the opening game of the weekend, one could expect another weekend of unexpected results and brilliant displays of football. TheHardTackle takes a look at five interesting events to look forward to this weekend –
How will Bengaluru FC fare on the road?
The newly-born I-League club have been brilliant in their first five games, all of which have been played at home, and have picked up 13 points from a maximum possible of 15. In their last game, Bengaluru FC annihilated former champions Dempo 3-1, sending out a strong message to the rest of the league about their title aspirations. This Saturday, Ashley Westwood’s men will have to do without the comfort of their home fans, as they travel to Kolkata to take on East Bengal FC. The red-and-golds have been enriched by an enlightening experience in the AFC Cup, where they reached the semis this term, only to be trounced by a strong Kuwait SC side. Marcos Falopa’s side will be confident ahead of the Bengaluru game, despite the loss to Kuwait SC, and will be hoping for their first home points in the I-League. Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, will be a tough nut to crack for the hosts. The ‘men of steel’ have been propelled to the top of the table by the likes of John Johnson, Sean Rooney, Beikhokhei Beingaichho and others, and with these players in top form, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the visitors nick all three points.
Lajong entertain defending champions Churchill Brothers in Shillong
I-League holders Churchill Brothers have had a torrid start to their I-League campaign. The boys from Goa have collected merely two points from their five games, and were lucky to escape with a draw against Rangdajied United a few weeks back. The champions now go back to Shillong, looking for their first three points of the season, with the morale of the players not particularly high. Shillong Lajong, on the other hand, have been poor at home, with two points from their four games, which included a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of East Bengal. Thangboi Singto’s boys, however, will be in high spirits after winning a thrilling encounter by the scoreline of 3-2 against Mumbai FC at the Balewadi last Wednesday. The hosts will be aiming for their first home win against the out-of-form visitors, and with Cornell Glen in good form, the reds should definitely have a good shot at all three points.
Pune FC and Sporting Clube look to consolidate league positions
Pune FC have had a positive start to their league campaign, with wins against Mohammedan, Mohun Bagan and Churchill. The red lizards have had defender Callum Angus firing all cylinders, which has greatly helped the club in staying in touch with the leaders. With a game in hand, Pune FC will be looking to consolidate their league position with a win against beleaguered Rangdajied United, who have struggled in their debut campaign in the top flight, and only have a couple of points from six games.
Sporting Clube de Goa didn’t have the best of starts to their campaign, and could only muster a point from their first couple of games. However, since then, the Flaming Oranje have won three games on the trot, and sit fourth in the league table. Up next for them are Mohammedan Sporting, who, apart from a win against Rangdajied, have been struggling since their return to the top-flight. The Black Panthers will, however, be boosted by the availability of reliable defender Luciano Sobrosa, and the loan signings of players from the IMG-R camp. It will be interesting to see how this game particularly pans out.
Will Salgaocar get back to winning ways?
Former winners Salgaocar FC lead the chasing pack in the I-League standings, with the Goans being three points behind leaders Bengaluru FC. The Goan side has hugely benefited from the superb form of new signing Darryl Duffy, who has scored goals for fun this season. After an unbeaten run in their first four games, Salgaocar failed to earn a single point from their clash against Mohun Bagan, losing 2-1 to the Mariners away from home. The Derrick Perreira-coached side will now look to get back to winning ways against United SC, who after a strong start to their season, have somewhat fizzled out in the last four games, failing to win any of these. So will Darryl Duffy score again? Will Claude Gnakpa get on the scoresheet? It will be quite interesting to see.
Mohun Bagan look to follow up Salgaocar win with a victory against Mumbai
The Mariners failed to win any of their first four games, losing two and drawing the other two. However, a win against high-flying Salgaocar must definitely have given Bagan huge confidence of turning their season around. With a game against Mumbai FC coming up this weekend, Karim Bencherifa’s side will hope to inflict Mumbai FC their third consecutive defeat in the league this weekend. Mumbai FC, on the other hand, will have to do without the services of influential full-back Haroon Amiri, after the Afghan skipper was sent off in the last game against Lajong for slapping Minchol Son. Whether the Mumbaikars can recover from the loss and take the game to Bagan will be interesting to see.
The fixtures this weekend –
26.10.2013: East Bengal vs Bengaluru FC
26.10.2013: Mumbai FC vs Mohun Bagan
27.10.2013: United SC vs Salgaocar
27.10.2013: Sporting Clube de Goa vs Mohammedan Sporting
27.10.2013: Pune FC vs Rangdajied United
28.10.2013: Shillong Lajong vs Churchill Brothers