Kolkata/Shillong, April 29 : Surprise league leaders Aizawl FC will need at least a draw against Shillong Lajong to script history, while former champions Mohun Bagan face a must-win home tie against Cheni City FC on the fil day of the I-League football season on Sunday.
Mohun Bagan are placed second in the ten-team points table, three points behind Aizawl who are top of the tree. Kolkata giants Bagan have 33 points from 17 matches, while Aizawl have 36 points with a match to go.
If Bagan emerge victorious against Cheni at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium in Kolkata and Aizawl succumb to a defeat at Shillong’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the Kolkata side will be crowned champions on better goal difference.
A draw will be enough for Khalid Jamil-coached Aizawl, one of the clubs with the lowest budget, to become the first club from the north-east to bag the first division title.
Mohun Bagan beat Aizawl at home 3-2 but lost to them away 0-1 thus taking their head-to-head advantage out of the equation. On the goal difference count, Mohun Bagan are ahead by four goals than Aizawl.
“Our aim is to win and end the league on a high. I am not thinking about what will happen there (in Shillong),” Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen told reporters on the eve of the game.
“The so-called not so big teams like Minerva and Cheni..Mohun Bagan have struggled more against them away or home. So I have told the boys to be extra cautious against these teams,” Sen added.
Cheni coach V. Soundarajan said it’s a great opportunity for his one-year-old side who are dwelling near the bottom of the league table to play against a side like Mohun Bagan.
“Mohun Bagan is one of the best clubs in India. It is a great opportunity for us to play against Mohun Bagan. We will go all out.”
Soundarajan said that injured defender Echezo Anyichie has been ruled out, while Brazilian forward Charles will be the only foreigner in the starting XI on Sunday as fellow Brazilian striker Marcos Thank won’t be available.
Both Mohun Bagan, Cheni City FC and Shillong Lajong, Aizawl FC will start at the same time.
Lajong, fifth in the table, have only pride to play for in the fil fixture. Shillong Lajong FC coach Thangboi Singto has said that his wards are determined to defeat title contenders Aizawl.
“We are looking forward to giving Aizawl FC a tough fight. They have not won the title as yet but we will not let Aizawl FC walk in and take away the title,” he said earlier in the week.
“It’s the northeast derby — our match against Aizawl FC and we are gearing up in that fashion. We know what Aizawl FC have a lot at stake and we plan to make it even more difficult for them.”
But Aizawl will hope to continue their momentum. They have lost just thrice this season winning 11 games and have stunned one and all by punching way above their weight. Their foreign recruits Kamo Bayi, Alfred Jaryan and Mahmoud Amh have played exceptiolly well helped by strong local talent. But, for the Sunday game, Liberian forward Jaryan and defender Ashutosh Mehta have been suspended after receiving four yellow cards.
Jamil said as a coach he cannot allow the stress of the epic encounter to get to him. “The coach has to be under control,” the former Mumbai FC tactician said.
From the beginning of the season, we have taken it one match at a time and tomorrow’s going to be no different,” Jamil said.
Elsewhere, seventh-placed DSK Shivajians of Pune will host wooden spooners Minerva Punjab. (IANS)