Ahead of the upcoming I-League clash against each other, both sides need a win to take home the crown.

After a back-and-forth season, the I-League moves into its grand finale as Gokulam Kerala and TRAU FC lock horns to decide which team is rightfully named as the 2020/21 I-League champions. This season both teams have toppled the odds and come up big to be title contenders. They’ve been aided by some classy, in-form players who will have to turn up to help their side win the title.

Therefore, a number of intriguing battles await in the game, with both sets of players looking to neutralize the threat of the opposition’s biggest guns. With both Gokulam Kerala and TRAU having the possibility to win the championship in this game, it’ll be an intense battle of wits and mental strength to see which team is really ready to represent India in the AFC Cup next season. So, let’s look at the three key battles for this I-League title decider.

3. Philip Adjah Vs Naresh Singh

While Philip Adjah’s been forced to bring certain changes to his game to properly adapt himself to the Malabarians’ attacking style, he’s been one of the focal points behind their menacing goalscoring record. While he’s scored five goals so far, despite playing the majority of the games down the flanks, the 22-year-old has displayed impressive movement and clinical instructs to create a lot of chances for himself. Adjah comes up against the sturdy Naresh Singh, who has been one of the finds of the campaign for TRAU.

Naresh has played in a variety of roles this season, but should slot in as the right-back to keep Adjah quiet. With the Ghanaian known for his rapid pace, dribbling ability and tendency to sneak into all the right areas, Singh has his work cut out for him. The right-back must maintain utmost concentration to track each and every one of Adjah’s runs, intercept the supply flow and stop him in his tracks before he romps his way into the penalty area. With two young guns going at it on that hotly-contested wing, this battle should be a real firecracker.

2. Mohamed Awal Vs Bidyashagar Singh

The Gokulam Kerala captain has been immense for them this season, maintaining a rigid backline which does not let in goals easily, but will now face a stern test in the form of Naresh Singh from TRAU. Awal has helped them keep two clean-sheets and only concede two goals in four championship round games, tuning up his own performances a notch to help his side. The bullish defender’s tough-tackling nature, bulky figure and tendency to make clutch challenges will make things formidable for Bidyashagar Singh on the other side. But, it’s the young striker’s chance to prove that he’s ready to face the meanest of defenders by making good use of his movement and pace to spiral past the Gokulam defence and score the biggest strikes of his campaign.

The breakout domestic star of the season in the I-League this time, Bidyashagar has undoubtedly been one of the best Indian players in the competition this season. With 11 goals (including six in the championship round), the 23-year-old striker has been on fire. However, the biggest challenge of his campaign now lies ahead against Gokulam Kerala. It’s the kind of game to decide whether he’s just another promising youngster or something really special. Bidyashagar, however, will face a tough test against Gokulam’s towering Ghanaian defender Mohamed Awal.

1. Denny Antwi Vs Dinesh Singh

Brought in as Henry Kisekka’s replacement, Denny Antwi has done exactly what he was roped in for – take things to a whole new level for Gokulam Kerala. The 28-year-old has been the complete package for the Malabarians’ frontline, assuming the massive responsibility of spearheading their attack and making everyone else play better because of him. Antwi has scored 10 goals and registered five assists in 14 games, being at the top end of all the attacking charts. So, to stop Gokulam’s freight-train, TRAU defender Dinesh Singh has to pull off a real blinder.

Like opposition defender Awal, Dinesh has also put in some commendable performances this season and helped his side only concede two goals in four championship round games. He’s also played a massive role in TRAU maintaining the third best defensive record in the I-League, being an absolute rock at the back. The 23-year-old centre-back will aim to make good use of his pace and footballing IQ to stop Antwi in his tracks. If TRAU are to get the win, they need to keep the Ghanaian striker quiet and Dinesh will have to be in the right place at the right time all through the game to stop the ruthless Antwi from taking the game away from them.

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