Friday , April 12 2024

I-League Round 18 Preview: Six-pointer on the cards as Sreenidi Deccan FC & Mohammedan Sporting cross swords!

Three-way title races are all in fashion right now, and the I-League will not be left behind. What seemed a one-horse race in December is fast turning into a chariot race with every horse looking like a winner. And this is a crucial weekend for the league, one where the race could get tighter, or drop one contender into the only-rans.

CLASH OF THE TITANS: PART 2

It’s been an odd season for Sreenidi Deccan FC so far, but after a lot of slips and falls, they finally can seize control of the league. The math is simple, win and they will be top of the league, one point above Mohammedan Sporting and three above Gokulam Kerala FC. Lose and they will be five points behind, and realistically — barring a late-season miracle — out of the title race. After a restart slump, Mohammedan Sporting have racked up two wins on the trot, but with their fixtures so spaced out any thoughts of sustained momentum must instead turn to sustaining quality. This is a blockbuster clash, with a blockbuster billing and the perfect way to end February.

COASTING ON SIX APPEAL

There was a time not so long back when Gokulam Kerala were stuck in the mid-table, ten points off the pace and playing the role of the fallen contenders to perfection. That time was December and the year was 2023. While it is narratively soothing to pin this resurrection to some resolutions in the new year, the truth is that Gokulam Kerala’s rejig started with a thrashing of Sreenidi Deccan just before Christmas. They haven’t dropped points in the league since, and their aggregate scoreline since that encounter has been 18-6. It’s an atomic return to form and one they will hope to sustain in the next game against a Namdhari FC team who look a little depleted. A win will boost confidence and also set them up perfectly for their next fixture — against Mohammedan Sporting.

RUNNING UP THAT (CHURCH)HILL

It’s not like Churchill Brothers haven’t been worse than this, or been lower than this in the past decade, but it’s hard to think of a time when Churchill Brothers have underwhelmed as much. For a team bursting at the seams with individual talent, the lack of cohesion is jarring. They haven’t won a game since early December and have dropped three of their last six. The fact that they are still well clear of the relegation zone has little to do with them and more to do with the dire situation of the Manipur clubs. It is hard to say what they’re doing wrong. All their numbers point to a mid-table finish (goals scored, conceded) and yet in the crunch moments, against teams they need to be beating, they have lost. And so they will host Delhi FC hoping to correct that wrong. For Delhi FC, this is a chance to secure a solid debut season’s mid-table spot.

BEST OF THE REST

Shillong Lajong FC hosts Rajasthan United FC and will hope to extend their winning streak to three, gain back some momentum and push if not for the title, then at least for a top-three finish. Rajasthan United’s early season slump has been broken, and after a creditable draw against Aizawl, the team looks safe to continue their I-League journey — but stranger things have happened. NEROCA FC have lost seven games in a row now, and along with their city counterparts, look destined for the drop. The game against Inter Kashi may not provide salvation or even hope, but there is always pride.

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