With only a handful of games left in the season, all the teams have everything to play for in the upcoming rounds. Round 22 is no exception with some critical fixtures scheduled to be played out. Lets have a look at the top 5 fixtures to catch this weekend as the I-League table is all set to dramatize.
A Sixth Win For Salgaocar ?
Salgaocar football club has rekindled the title winning fire in them. Derrick Pereira’s side notched up a fifth consecutive win , giving his side a bright chance to lift the title come end of the season. The Goan Greens now welcome a struggling United SC side in round 22. The strike partnership of Dudu and Duffy has worked wonders for the side since the winter break. In the last five games, Salgaocar has hit the back of the net nine times, out of which seven occasions have been the ones where either of the aforementioned has donned the scoring boots.it is quite clear which players should be marked on priority by the leaky United SC defense.
Tipped for relegation this year, United SC was expected to struggle after the mass exodus in the winter window, including the former coach, Eelco Schattorie, who chose to leave the ship midway. Obviously it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the former SAI man Ananat Ghosh, whose side hasn’t been able to garner a single victory since the exit from the IFA shield. (2 Draws, 2 Losses). The purple Brigade now travel to Goa in hope of stopping the Salgaocar juggernaut and stopping the free fall. Another loss in this round could very well see the Kolkata club getting sucked into the drop zone.
Key Match For the Black Panthers
Mohammedan Sporting Club would be looking to get out of the jail when they plan to lock horns against another resurgent side- Dempo. Not many would be putting their eggs in the United SC basket in the early kick off and if Black Panthers manage to hoard all three points, it could see them bid good bye to the relegation zone for now. After playing out a gritty draw against Mohun Bagan, the Kolkata side succumbed to their ninth loss in the last round against East Bengal. With only a single win in last five, Coach Sonjay Sen would be planning to script nothing less than a win in this very vital match. Japanese striker Hasegawa has been flirty in and around the danger area and with him getting on the score sheet in the last match, most of the hopes will be pinned on him to give a similar performance.
Dempo on the other hand is in the most comfortable position in the league. Sitting at the sixth position in the league, the White Eagles’ run of three wins was halted by Salgaocar in the previous round. The Goan club is too far away form the title and has a healthy distance from the relegation zone. With an astute eye on the future, the club will be looking to finish as high as possible in the table without a doubt. A win here could take Arthur Papas’ side to fifth, depending on the other results. Tolgay Ozbey has been in fine form since his switch from the visiting club, and would be hoping to get on the score sheet.
Will Ranti Net again?
Probably the hottest team on the block, Randajied United travel to Kolkata to take on East Bengal. Herring Shangpliang’s side would be looking to climb further up the table after the explosive form the club has showcased. Ranti Martins has once again proven his mettle in hitting the back of the net, as he looks to increase his tally for the season. So far, the three consecutive wins have featured a strike from the Nigerian hit man, and he would clearly be the man to mark for the Lal- Holud defenders. His strike partner upfront – Seong Kim is also gelling up well with his new team mates, and is now looking dangerous. The Shillong team has not managed to beat their hosts this season (drawing in the Federation Cup and losing out the match in Shillong earlier this season) and revenge could be on the cards.
East Bengal has already lost substantial ground while chasing the title in the last few rounds, winning only once in their last five games. As the Coach Armando Colaco looks to counter the pressure hailed onto him from various directions, a win here could be a step in the right direction. East Bengal is currently slotted in the seventh position, but importantly has three games in hand. If the kolkata side manages to win all of them, they will still be four points short of the summit, given that Bengaluru FC has some glitches from here on. James Moga and Chidi Edeh are the only ones to score in the last five games and will be men to watch out.
Churchill Brothers- Do or Die !
Another tie to watch out this weekend would be the defending champions’ chance to script an escape. the AFC break has been a welcome morale boosting break for the Mariano Dias’ side as they prepare to welcome Pune FC. The Red Machines won both of their matches quite comfortably, hitting six goals in the process. As the side returns to the I-league this weekend, it will be very different story for the Goan side, as they look to avoid a very realistic drop from the premier division. Striker Balwant Singh will be the man to watch out for the Pune defense, as he would be looking to add to his kitty after scoring in the AFC Cup matches.
Pune FC, unlike their hosts did not have a merry time in the continental competition. After getting humbled in Singapore, the Pune side would be raring to go against the team placed at rock bottom. The travelling on the other hand could take it’s toll on Mike Snoei’s side. The Red Lizards are placed third in the league, seven points off the top with a game in hand. The squad would be hoping to win all the games from hereon and expect for other results to fall their way.
Bengaluru FC – A Slip Up Too Costly
Another cracker of a fixture this weekend would comprise of Bengaluru FC taking on Shillong Lajong at the JLN stadium. Westwood’s side know that at-least two teams ( i.e Salgaocar and Pune FC ) are hot on their heels and any slip up could prove to be costly henceforth. Shillong has given away the initiative, which the Meghalaya side had gained over the past few months, marred by a series of draws since the winter break. Chief mentor Singto has put his trust in the youth, which is paying rich dividend now. The Reds from the north east could easily dream of finishing the season occupying one of the podium places come April.
Bengaluru FC are enjoying the summit for the time being but they have their work cut out for the remainder of the season. with only one home game left, Westwood’s side need to showcase some gritty performances in order to clinch their maiden title. Last time these two teams met, India captain Chettri netted a brace and will obviously be the man to watch out.
Salgaocar FC V United SC, March 22, 5.00 PM
Dempo SC V Mohammaden Sporting, March 22, 6.00 PM
East Bengal V Rangdijiad United FC, March 23, 3.00 PM
Churchill Brothers V Pune FC, March 23, 5.00 PM
Shillong Lajong FC V Bengaluru FC, March 23, 6.30 PM
Sporting Club de Goa V Mohun Bagan , March 23, 5.00 PM