There will be six fixtures this midweek before the two-week international break with each club being eager to secure maximum points. Perhaps the most desperate will be AFC Cup semi-finalists East Bengal, who face Sporting Clube in Goa. On paper the Kolkata giants have the best squad but they have failed to find consistency with two wins and two defeats from four outings.
The red-and-gold-brigade have a huge fixture backlog to make up so they wouldn’t want to lose further ground in the title race. East Bengal haven’t won back-to-back games in the I-League since February and current coach Marcos Falopa is struggling to win the confidence of the players and fans. The Brazilian is yet to pick the same lineup in consecutive matches and many believe he still doesn’t know his best eleven.
Edeh Chidi‘s absence due to injury will add to Falopa’s woes so once again a lot will depend on the club’s top scorer of this campaign, James Moga, who reportedly has fallen out with the coach already. Opponents Sporting Clube are unpredictable as they were beaten by Mohammedan Sporting in round six but they bounced back with a 2-0 win over title contenders Pune FC in the last match. This fixture could go either way but all the pressure will be on Falopa’s East Bengal outfit.
While East Bengal have failed to prove their title credentials, Salgaocar have been playing like contenders so far and they will be confident of another win against rock-bottom and winless Rangdajied United. Rangdajied have only lost one of their three home matches though and any slip up from Salgaocar could see either Pune FC or Bengaluru FC go top with the two teams going head-to-head in Pune.
Dempo and Churchill Brothers clash in the only derby of the round with both rivals needing a win. Another club who require three points desperately is Mohammedan Sporting as they have been struggling despite the heavy investment in the summer and the recent additions from IMG-Reliance. The Kolkata club host Mumbai FC, who showed great character to earn a point against Bengaluru FC in the last round.
Mohun Bagan will be looking to build on their three-match unbeaten run with a win over Lajong but the Shillong club registered their first home victory of the season at the weekend and will be confident of another positive result.
Tuesday: Sporting Clube vs East Bengal (15:30); Rangdajied United vs Salgaocar (17:00; LIVE on Ten Action)
Wednesday: Mohammedan Sporting vs Mumbai FC (14:30); Dempo vs Churchill Brothers (15:30; LIVE on Ten Action); Shillong Lajong vs Mohun Bagan (17:30; LIVE on Ten Action); Pune FC vs Bengaluru FC (18:30)
Game of the round
Dempo vs Churchill Brothers
Two of the most successful clubs in I-League history have endured very difficult starts so far and at this rate don’t look like challenging for the title. But a win in this fixture could change the mood in either squad and thus this encounter promises to be an open contest.
While Dempo are still getting used to the Arthur Papas era, Churchill Brothers have suffered due to some poor recruitments in the foreigners’ department. The defending champions remain winless and second from bottom after seven matches. It’s a huge contrast from last season when the Churchill family made some quality foreign signings both in the summer and winter transfer windows. Nigerian Hamed Adesope and Syria Ahmad Al Kaddour have both failed to impress and are set to be released.
But what will worry returning technical director Subhash Bhowmick more is that Churchill Brothers have lost the winning habit completely as they threw away a two-goal lead against United SC in the last game, which they went on to lose 3-2. However the Red Machines will be encouraged by the fact that their opponents and Goan rivals Dempo too haven’t been in great form.
The five-time record Indian champions have managed just win in seven matches and thus cannot afford too many slip ups if they want to challenge for the title. Papas is still getting to know his squad but he will be happy to have got the first clean sheet of the season against Mohun Bagan and the team has been improved by the addition of the four former Arrows players.
Churchill Brothers’ top scorer last season, Henri Antchouet could be back for this clash and that should make their attack more potent as former India u-23 striker Balwant Singh and Portuguese Hugo Machado have been in decent form. Dempo’s passing game has been pleasing on the eye but they must start complementing the performances with results if they want to have a successful season. A win in this clash will be a step in that direction.
Players to watch out for
Foreigner: Josimar (Mohammedan Sporting)
Despite Mohammedan Sporting’s poor start, the Brazilian has been one of the most consistent players in the Airtel I-League. With six goals, Josimar is one of the three joint-top scorers and he will be determined to get on the scoresheet against Mumbai FC also.
Indian: Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Just like the recent seasons of the I-League, Indian strikers have struggled in this campaign also and the India captain has been no exception with just one goal from open play in seven appearances. Bengaluru FC face a tough away test against Pune FC so Sunil must be at his very best.Published 04 Nov 2013, 23:28 IST