Both teams appear underdone for the long season…
I-League newbies Chennai City welcome fellow-newbies Minerva Punjab to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday evening as they hope to win their first top-flight match in the club’s 71-year history.
With Salgaocar, Sporting Club de Goa, and Dempo pulling out of India’s premier footballing competition citing All India Football Federations attempts to accentuate Indian Super League, AIFF began accepting bids for two corporate clubs in the I-League. AIFF rejected initial bids from Bardez, City and Minerva; however, the latter two find themselves in the I-League in light of the AIFF relaxing the minimum financial requirement.
As the newbies go up against each other, the first game holds immense significance as the winners will be hoping to build on the result. The need for a psychological boost heading into their respective maiden I-League campaigns will likely outweigh the need for three points. City hold the home advantage, but Minerva will be hopeful of sending the home fans home unhappy.
City manager Robin Charles Raja has brought in a mid-table finish-worthy team in less than one month, with Indian club football veterans Dharmaraj Ravanan, Karanjit Singh and Dhanpal Ganesh signing for the club. Malsawmfela, Marcos Tank and Charles will likely form the frontline. Aided by a group of promising players in Soosairaj Michael, Michael Regin and Antony Beautin, City shall hope to produce a decent performance.
Minerva seem keen on nurturing young talents, with coach Surinder Singh signing many youngsters in Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh. Unlike their Sunday’s opponents, they have already confirmed 18 players. Manandeep Singh and Joel Sunday will form the frontline whilst they will likely field an all-Indian midfield featuring Rakesh Oram and Vinit Rai.
Despite either club boasting rich history, the Sunday’s game will be their first meeting in the I-League.
Players to watch
Chennai City: Dhanpal Ganesh
Despite earning five caps for India, Ganesh has never impressed Chennaiyin coach Marco Materazzi as he remained a fringe player despite the Marina Machans’ midfield proving an area of serious concern last season. At City, however, he will likely be a first-team regular. Should the City coach deploy a double pivot with Zakeer Mundampara as his midfield partner, defensive stability will be ensured without compromising the attack.
Minerva Punjab: Loveday Enyinnaya
With Minerva confirming just three foreign signings so far, Nigerian defender Loveday Enyinnaya, is certain to be an automatic starter in the line-up. Having played five seasons in India in Shillong Premier League, I-League 2 and I League, he shall be a calming presence at the back. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall, he will prove an intimidating figure.
Chennai City: Karanjit Ravanan, Das, Sunil; Dhanpal, Mundampara, Caldeira, Beautin; Tank, Charles, Malsawmfela
Minerva Punjab: Ravi, Devrani, Ramandeep, Vishal, Enyinnaya, Thapa, Germanpreet, Oram, Rai, Manandeep, Sunday
You can watch the match live on Ten 2. You can otherwise follow Khel Now’s live commentary as we include updates, videos of goals, and every significant moment you will enjoy when you watch the game live.