It could be the last opportunity for both former champions Mohun Bagan and defending champions Minerva Punjab FC, if their title aspirations are to be kept alive, as they come face to face in a 12th I-League game at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Saltlake Stadium on Wednesday, January 9 in a return leg fixture.
The game is scheduled for a 2pm IST kick-off.
Hosts Mohun Bagan are sixth, while the champions are placed a rung lower in the 11-team league, their campaigns derailed in recent times and both go into the game on the back of demoralising defeats.
Mohun Bagan, in fact, have replaced Shankarlal Chakraborty, who resigned after the last defeat against Real Kashmir FC and have brought in Khalid Jamil as coach in a desperate attempt to revive their fortunes.
The Kuwait-born Mumbai-based gaffer, who famously steered Aizawl FC to an I-League title two years ago, has barely had a day on the job before such a crucial clash.
In his first press-chat as Mohun Bagan head coach Khalid Jamil stressed on the need to keep things simple saying, “It is the first match for me and it is a big challenge to get a good start. We are only thinking about a positive start. We are not thinking about the past but about tomorrow and will be giving our best. I will be keeping it simple, not many changes and thinking positive.”
Minerva Punjab FC, under Irish coach Paul Munster, have just not gotten going this season, reflected in their scoring record of having struck just six times in 11 games.
It is not for trying though, and Paul has tried out enough player-combinations but none seems to have given the dividends he would have liked, on the evidence available so far.
He seemed to be more concerned about Mohun Bagan’s new coach bringing in new tactics, saying in the pre-game presser, “It’s a new coach. When a new coach comes in, the players want to impress the new coach. So, it is a motivation for them. We are aware of Mohun Bagan and we know how they play. New coach, he may make new decisions, new tactics, maybe different players playing.”
He also disclosed that his premiere marksman might be injured for the game adding, “We have only two foreigners playing in defence, as others are injured. Both teams are in the same situation, similar in the league positions as well.”
Mohun Bagan will be the more confident of the two sides, given they won against Minerva Punjab FC in the first leg and also have won three of their last five encounters.
However, Mohun Bagan have not had a good run at the Saltlake Stadium this year and Minerva Punjab FC will try and take heart from their win against the other Kolkata giants East Bengal at the same venue earlier in the season.
William Opoku had scored in that game and Minerva Punjab FC will surely miss him on Wednesday.
Mohun Bagan’s defence, having conceded 14 in 11 games, are not the most compact in the league and Minerva Punjab FC will want to take full advantage of that, with some young and talented Indian attackers in their ranks.
Given the context, a tight contest is surely on the cards with both teams having enough fire-power to log three points on their day.