The battle for Indian Football supremacy is setting the pace as the big teams are back in the I-League fray in round 4. East Bengal is set to play their first match of this I-League campaign in the hilltops of Shillong after their AFC Cup assignments. Pune FC and Mohun Bagan are also set to return to the heated battle after a break in previous round. Sporting Club De Goa will be taking a deserved break in this round after their first victory in new campaign. Round 3’s stand out performers were Mumbai FC, whom it will be after I-League Round 4?
Goan Derby pits Salgaocar against Dempo SC
Round 4 will begin with an exciting Goan derby between two local giants, Salgaocar SC and Dempo SC. Salgaocar SC is the only team remaining in I-League with 100% record after United SC went down fighting against newcomers Bengaluru FC. Salgaocar had fielded an unchanged line-up in both the matches and the team is gelling quite well which will be an added advantage for the side. Foreign strike pairing of Darryl Duffy and Claude Gnakpa are combining well upfront and the duo is expected to celebrate more goals as the season progresses.
Salgaocar will be up against one of the pre-tournament favourites Dempo SC in a battle for pride and supremacy in their own locality. Dempo had a horrendous start this season, contrary to expectations. They are win-less after 3 rounds, and Dempo’s failure to defend 2 goal advantage against Rangdajied will give some more sleepless nights to highly rated Australian tactician Arthur Papas. Can they recover from their slump to register their first win of the season? Salgaocar are in good rhythm after dismantling Mohammedan SC with ease and it will require a herculean effort from the new boys in Dempo colours to stop their juggernaut.
Can East Bengal perform according to their continental standards?
Reaching the AFC Cup semifinals is some achievement for an Indian Football Club. East Bengal has already done it in some style, can they get one better which is lying 2 goals away from reality? Whatever be their position in continent, they need to perform out of their skins in domestic competition to enter the next year’s race. Having played in a higher standard might help East Bengal when they step out in I-League for the first time in new campaign. Can they produce a footballing masterclass to stun the Shillong crowd? The strike force of Edeh Chidi and James Moga can be a handful to any Indian defence. Midfield is orchestrated by Indian Football team lynchpin Mehtab Hussain. While a strong and stable defence led by Uga Okpara is their main strength. Can they perform according to their continental standards? East Bengal coach also plans to rest some crucial players, keeping the fixture congestion in mind, so expect a depleted East Bengal side.
Shillong Lajong on the other hand have suffered an unexpected set back at the hands of Sporting Club De Goa in the last round. Many expect Lajong to be the underdogs in this campaign but they have the weapons in their armoury to upset giants. They have already dispatched pre-tournament favourites Dempo SC in the season opener and played out a goal-less draw against Pune FC. If those results are any indicator they are ready to face the giants without a shadow of doubt. In Cornell Glen, they do have a player who can single handed-ly decide the outcome of this fixture. The fans will be expecting some glorious football at the hilltops and that is what this fixture is going to offer for the football loving crowd in Shillong.
Can Bengaluru FC extend the gap in I-League table?
Sitting comfortably at the top of the table with 7 points is I-League newcomers Bengaluru FC. Ashley Westwood’s side is playing beyond the expectations from the start and their top of the table standing is well deserved to say the least. They are playing well organized football based on the defensive solidity of John Johnson and Curtis Osano. Even though Sean Rooney had an off-day against United SC, Bengaluru FC played well as a team to grab three points in the offering. They will be up against a Mohammedan SC side who are looking out of place following a serious of injuries and defeats. They have conceded 6 goals already and find themselves in rock bottom of the league. Can they rise to the occasion to challenge the table toppers in Garden City? If they fail to do so, then it is certain that the gap between top of the table and bottom is going to extend further after the end of round 4 in I-League.
Pune FC and Mohun Bagan to utilize their break from I-League
I-League fixtures are piling up at present, just 3 days after the completion of Round 3 matches all teams are set to enter the fields again. Two teams who got a break in last round are returning to the top flight action in Balewadi stadium complex in Pune. Hosts Pune FC and Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan aren’t tired like the other teams involved in I-League. Both teams will be fresh and raring to go to protect their unbeaten record. Pune FC secured a win and draw in the opening two rounds while Mohun Bagan settled for draw on both the occasions. In the absence of skipper OdafaOkolie, Mohun Bagan attacks are lacking the venom and purpose, despite good performances in Kolkata League. Pune FC is one of the toughest away trips in I-League and Mohun Bagan will need to play at their best to get a result. Can Wahid Sali and Co. produce another defensive masterclass to maintain their unbeaten record?
Are Indian strikers upto the mark?
Foreigners have been dominating the I-League scoring charts for quite sometime now. It’s difficult to find anyone other than Ranti Martins and Odafe Okolie with the golden boot in the near past. The season has entered only 3 rounds, but the pattern is already in place. Eight players are leading the I-League goal scoring charts at present with 2 goals each and none of them are of Indians. Bengaluru FC’s star striker and Indian skipper Sunil Chettri has found the back of the net only once, while his teammate John Johnson, a central defender has two goals under his belt! Few other Indian strikers have also registered their name in the list, but they aren’t anywhere near the foreigners. Aren’t the local players supposed to get better while playing along with these superior players?
I-League Round-4 fixtures:
Salgaocar SC V Dempo SC, October 9, 4.00 PM
Shillong Lajong FC V East Bengal FC, October 9, 5.00 PM
Mumbai FC V United SC, October 9, 7.00 PM
Bengaluru FC V Mohammedan SC, October 10, 4.00 PM
Rangdajied United FC V Churchill Brothers SC, October 10, 5.00 PM
Pune FC V Mohun Bagan AC, October 10, 7.00 PM