I-League 2017-18: Possible outcomes in the 4-way title race
The I-League has reached its business end of the season with just five games left to play over the course of the next five days. However, the title race is still heated up and there are no clear indications as to who will emerge victorious from it.
The top four teams - Minerva Punjab, NEROCA FC, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan - all have the chance to clinch the title, provided some results go in their favour. We take a look at all the possible scenarios that could take place for each of the sides to have a shot at the I-League.
Minerva Punjab FC
Fixture Left: Churchill Brothers (Home)
Minerva Punjab FC began the I-League season with a bang, winning 8 out of their first 10 matches launching into a clear lead at the top. They always had an upper hand over their rivals with games in hand at the end of January. At one point, they had as many as three games in hand over their closest rivals in the race - NEROCA FC. However, since February, Minerva Punjab FC played six, and have won just two of them, missing the chance to wrap up the title race.
Minerva Punjab FC will need to win against Churchill Brothers on the last day and hope that Kingfisher East Bengal drop at least one point from their two fixtures.
Fixture Left: East Bengal (Away)
The newly promoted side from the I-League 2nd Division proved a revelation this season with their free-spirited game and their rampantly passionate home crowd in Imphal, Manipur.
NEROCA began their season with a loss to Minerva Punjab but recovered superbly with a nine-match unbeaten run that included six wins, four of them away from home. The scheduling of the fixtures saw them finish up their 17 matches earlier than the other contenders in the race. Three losses at their home ground against Shillong Lajong, Minerva Punjab FC and Mohun Bagan proved costly for them in the title race.
NEROCA travel to Kolkata to take on East Bengal in what could prove to be a title clash. They will need to win and hope that Minerva drop points against Churchill Brothers.
Fixtures Left: Shillong Lajong (Away), NEROCA FC (Home)
East Bengal's season under new coach Khalid Jamil began on a sour note with a Kolkata derby loss, but the Red and Golds recovered well with an 8-match unbeaten strike that included five wins. This streak was broken in the second Kolkata derby of the season. Since then, East Bengal have fortified their season with just one loss in five matches and their latest match saw them thrash Chennai City FC with a 7-1 win at home.
Title Scenario: East Bengal have their hopes in their own hand. They can wrap up the I-League title if they can beat Shillong Lajong FC and NEROCA FC.
Fixtures Left: Churchill Brothers (Away), Gokulam FC (Away)
Mohun Bagan's season has been highly inconsistent throughout the campaign with a lot of drawn matches (6). However, they have been a tough side to beat this season with just three losses so far.
They did the Kolkata derby double over East Bengal, but three losses at home against Chennai City FC, Minerva Punjab FC and Gokulam Kerala saw their title hopes lose steam.
Title Scenario: Mohun Bagan's title hopes rest on favorable results from other matches. They will win the I-League only if they win both their remaining matches and if Minerva Punjab FC loses their match against Churchill Brothers, and East Bengal and NEROCA FC draw their match in Kolkata.
These are the possible outcomes for a mouth-watering end to the I-League this season that promises to go down to the wire.