The business end of the I-League is raring to unleash itself. Every fan is adjusting their microscope at the two ends of the table. With only a last few rounds left on the radar, the million dollar question is – Is there a twist in the tale? One just cannot predict what to expect from this amazing football season. Let’s look at the matches to be held on the weekend and point out five critical moments which could impact the league.
Massive Game for East Bengal
The equation for East Bengal is simple. The Kolkata side is slotted at the third spot in the table, seven points adrift from the summit and with two games in hand. Win all the remaining matches and hope for other title chasing teams to drop points. As the Lal-Holud brigade gears up to cross swords with Pune FC, which arguably should be most vital match of the round, the equation is clear for Armando Colaco’s lads – win this match. Any other result apart from this could prove to be a major dent in their rejuvenated title chasing hopes. East Bengal is going through a purple patch with no defeat in their last seven games. (Four wins).
Their opponents on Saturday evening are Pune FC, a side which has lost its way recently. Not far ago, Pune FC was among the mix of title contenders, but a series of disappointing results has dropped the Pune side down the pecking order. The Red Lizards have not registered a victory in all competitions since mid February(Played 10 – Lost 4). Snoei’s side are now ten points off the top, with a game in hand. Like their hosts, this will be a make or break match for the AFC Cup participants. A loss in this match could erase the minimal left hope of a fight back with respect to the I-League. Both these sides haven’t met in the I-league so far as the double header of a home an away game is just separated by a round of matches. Pune FC could very well act as a spoilsport for the aspiring bengali side, but with the recent AFC Cup disappointment up their sleeves, a solid end to the season would be the plan from the dutch coach, Mike Snoei.
Derby to Avoid the Drop
It hasn’t been a season to remember for the Kolkata clubs, with the exception of East Bengal. Currently, three out of the last four standings in the table are occupied by the clubs from the City of Joy. It’s quite evident that the story of Mohun Bagan and United Club this season has been nothing but a struggle. another performance which is not up to the mark, and the result could very well prove to be a nail in the coffin for either of the sides.
The Mariners have only one one triumph since the return from the winter form. Coach Bencharifa has been under fire lately and this match against fellow strugglers could not have arrived at a better time. The worry for the Sabuj-Maroon brigade would be that the team is not able to capitalize on their good build up and passing in the midfeild. Yusa Katsumi has not been unutilized as much as fans would have liked. Odafa and Chizoba upfront have looked out of sync adding to the problems.
On the other hand, United Club has been treading the path which was expected after all the financial problems made their way into the club’s administrative department. The Purple Brigade from Kolkata hasn’t registered a victory since a whopping twelve game span. Departure of influential players hasn’t helped the cause and the future looks bleak herafter. United Sports Club will go into this match without their influential captain Lalkamal Bhowmick who was dismissed in the last match. With problems piling on the chief mentor Ananta Ghosh, this match could really define their apetite to stay alive in the premier football league of the country.
Both the sides have met twice earlier this season, with Mohun Bagan trouncing their city rivals in the I-League and managing to play out a draw in the Kolkata League.
Black Panthers to go down?
Md. Sporting Club has almost blown away the chance of making the most of playing in the top division of football in india. With three matches to go, the Black Panthers need nothing less than nine points from them. The hypothetical situation, albiet highly unlikely, is that Md. Sporting might avoid the dreaded drop and if other results don’t fall in their plate. In this round, the Kolkata side welcomes Rangdajied United to the Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
The hosts have clearly struggled at the back, conceding seven goals in the last five games. Coach Sanjay Sen was left fuming in the last game against East Bengal when his side gave away two of the most naively defended goals to throw away the match. The only sliver lining to this season is that striker Josimar has always turned up to hit the back of the net. Md. Sporting would be needing all of the Nigerian’s striking prowess in this match.
It would be safe to assume that the Ranti Martins powered side from the north east is comfortably placed in the table at the ninth position with 24 points. Rangdajied United has managed to garner three wins from there last five games, the last one being a loss against an impressive Sporting Club side. Another win in this match would stamp security this year for the debutants in the league.
Both these clubs met in the league earlier and Md. Sporting cam out as a clear cut winner with a comfortable 3-0 victory in Shillong. Revenge will be on the cards as Herring Shangpiang’s side travel to Kolkata for this one.
Can Churchill emulate their AFC Cup form?
Churchill Brothers have been nothing less than a mindboggling trivia this season. The Goan club is struggling in the league, but is taking their opponents to the cleaners in the continental competition. Leading to their all important match in Pune against Mumbai FC on Sunday, Churchill Brothers will be confident to pull off a great escape after an awe inspiring comeback against Persipura in their last match .
Striker Balwant Singh is now the leading scorer in all competitions, after he netted his fifteenth goal of the season. He would surely be planning to increase his tally in the last few games left. The Red Machines are slotted in the twelfth position right now, but the Mariano Dias side has an all important game in hand. Again, the plan would be simple – win all the matches and the best part is the club is not dependent on results from else where.
Mumbai FC literally got themsleves out of jail when they secured their first victory over Shillong Lajong after eleven matches. The last match for the coastal side ended in a draw against Dempo, which has been the sides’ unbelievable thirteenth draw of the campaign. Chief mentor and ex-player Khaild Jamil has been in similar situations before and has has always come out on top. Mumbai FC hasn’t been relegated since their climb into the premier division and would be hoping to keep the record intact. Going into this match as underdogs, Mumbai FC would be very lucky to garner any points against high flying Churchill Brothers.
East Bengal V Pune FC , April 12, 5.00 PM
United SC V Mohun Bagan, April 13, 2.30 PM
Md. Sporting V Rangdajied United FC, April 13, 5.00 PM
Mumbai FC V Churchill Brothers FC, April 13, 7.00 PM