The penultimate round of I-League 2016/17 serves up an intriguing battle for the title between Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan. The underdogs, Aizawl have punched above their weight all season, leading to them fighting tooth and nail with one of the giants of Indian football, Mohun Bagan.
As things stand, both Aizawl and Bagan have accrued the same number of points, with the Mariners leading the league because of their better head-to-head record over the Reds. But come Saturday afternoon, all previous records and form books will amount to little when the two front-runners square off to each other in what promises to be an epic clash.
The game is at 2.05 PM on Saturday at Aizawl’s Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, and here are five battles that could prove to be the keys to the match’s result.
#1 Mahmoud Al-Amna vs Katsumi Yusa
The Syrian midfielder, Mahmoud Al-Amna, has been the driving force in Aizawl’s midfield all season and has become indispensable to the Reds’ patterns of play. Al-Amna has made 13 appearances this season, scoring three goals. But more than just the goals, his nous and experience have been vital to Aizawl’s unlikely title charge.
But Al-Amna will face a formidable direct rival in the form of the Bagan captain and midfield dynamo, Katsumi Yusa. The 28-year-old Japanese has been in fine form this term, playing all his club’s games and netting twice in the process. Yusa is the heartbeat of the current Bagan side and links play from back to front in build-up play.
It is his well-timed runs into the box that have made Yusa a key presence for the Mariners, but whether he can get past Al-Amna at the heart of Aizawl’s midfield could decide which way the result sways.