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I-League Week 9 Preview: NEROCA host Lajong, Minerva in bid to bolster unlikely title bid

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Elsewhere, Indian Arrows travel to Goa and Coimbatore as Mohun Bagan visit Aizawl and Gokulam host the Reds.

Yet another endearing week is upon us in the I-League after we witnessed a lot of action in the previous week in this competition. The proceeding of last week has switched up a lot of things in the table in this competition. One of the stand-out results was when Churchill beat Shillong Lajong 2-0 at home on the 19th. Churchill, a team that went winless in the first six games, have now won two games in a row and are out of the relegation spot.

NEROCA are still on their run of seven games without a defeat after beating the young Indian Arrows 2-0 in their fixture. The big Kolkata derby is still yet to be played at the time of this article and rest assured, a win for the Mariners could put their misery of a season back on track. How do things look in this week of the I-League? Let’s dwell in,

Churchill Brothers Vs Indian Arrows

Date & Venue: 22nd January/ Tilak Maidan, Goa

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

Churchill Brothers have somehow managed to resurrect their I-League campaign after eight games into the season. Their new signings have propelled them to play some very good quality attacking football and this was quite evident on their showing in the back to back win against debutants Gokulam Kerala and Shillong Lajong.

A win in this fixture could see them move to double figures in points this season. This turnaround of form has been quite impressive and should Churchill keep this momentum up, they will have no problem finishing in the higher half of the table.

Indian Arrows looked to start the new year well against Shillong Lajong. All seemed to go to plan for them until the 80’ when they conceded a goal which went on to be the winner for Lajong. They did not let this defeat get to them, instead, they bounced back with a win against the misfiring Kerala.

The Arrows are now coming on the back of a defeat against NEROCA FC and this game against in-form Churchill should be a tough fixture for the young guns. Both the teams are in the bottom of the table with a chance to move up. This could be a very tricky fixture for the teams.

NEROCA FC Vs Shillong Lajong

Date & Venue: 24th January/ Khuman Lampak Stadium, Manipur

Time & Broadcast: 02:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

NEROCA are surprising everyone this year with their consistent performance both home and away. A team that hasn’t been defeated in eight games is a team of championship calibre. NEROCA are clearly in the mix-up for the I-League title and have been one of the lesser spoken teams for the title.

NEROCA have played 10 games so far and are only one point behind the league leaders, Minerva Punjab. This game presents a very good opportunity for them to close in on the pole position if East Bengal were to slip up in the Kolkata Derby.

Shillong Lajong are reeking inconsistency and that is hurting the club’s performance big time. The league table has them placed at fourth with 14 points in 11 games but the table does not give justice to the game that they’re showcasing on the field. Teams below them have played two-three games lesser and are either tied to points or only one lesser than this side.

Shillong will have to step up their performance against the unbeaten NEROCA if they were to stand a chance against them. The Shillong based outfit stands between NEROCA and their relentless pursuit of the I-League title and will put up a good fight to help get back their form from the beginning of the season.

Aizawl FC Vs Mohun Bagan

Date & Venue: 25th January/ Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

Having one of the meanest defences in the league by conceding just six goals so far, Aizawl FC have managed to get their season back on track after a start-stop beginning to the campaign. Aizawl have played the least number of fixtures in the league along with Churchill Brothers (nine games played), which puts them at a massive advantage.

Mohun Bagan have been plagued with draws this season and that has pushed them further down the table to a sorry sixth position. A win against the Red & Golds could do them a huge favour and give them the much-needed boost of confidence that they’ve been craving for.

The reigning champions are currently having a bitter-sweet season so far

With Sony Norde leaving the Mariners due to his knee injury, his departure comes with a huge gap in the attacking quotient of Mohun Bagan’s game and this is where their new signing Akram Moghrabi could impress. Every game is a must-win game for any team, especially Mohun Bagan if they were to put up a late challenge for the top of the table.

NEROCA FC Vs Minerva Punjab

Date & Venue: 27th January/ Khuman Lampak Stadium, Manipur

Time & Broadcast: 02:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

NEROCA FC have been a first-rate footballing side this season. As mentioned before, they have been racking up the points on the table and have been one of the silent contenders for the I-League title. A win against Shillong earlier this week could move them up to second place if the other results were to go their way.

NEROCA FC’s defence has not been appreciated as much as their attack and with the best record in the league, having conceded just five goals so far, NEROCA have been rock hard at the back and have never made it easy for their opponents to score.

Top half clubs will be in contention for a better finish in the league

Squaring up against another title contender, this tie could prove to be very crucial for both the sides. Only four points separate the two sides and by the time this fixture has taken place, NEROCA could move as close as one point to Minerva Punjab.

A mouth-watering clash awaits us as these two promising sides go against each other. Both the teams possess some of the finest footballers in attack and defence and there hasn’t been a more balanced match-up in the I-League as this one. Who will come out on top? We will have to wait and find out.


ALSO READ:

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Chennai City FC Vs Indian Arrows

Date & Venue: 27th January/Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Coimbatore

Time & Broadcast: 05:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

Chennai City FC have been lacklustre so far in this competition. Their promising squad filled with youngsters has not been working well for the club. The story of their season so far has been the case of “so close and yet so far”.  Coming on the back of a fixture against Gokulam Kerala, Chennai City FC will look to get revenge from their initial defeat against the Indian Arrows in their first fixture in the I-League this season.

Soosairaj, undoubtedly has been the stand-out performer for their side instructing and constructing plays from the midfield and has been unlucky so far not to have score goals. Their forward Joachim Jr. who is in the mix-up for the highest goal scorer award will be looking to add to his tally in this fixture. A win for Chennai could do them an awful lot of good in terms of confidence and position on the table.

Abhijit Sarkar and Rahul Praveen are delivering pretty solid performances lately

Indian Arrows are standing in a no man’s land on the table as they are right in between the pack of mid-table teams and the bottom clubs. A win could solidify their mid-table presence in the table and a win against Churchill earlier this week could move them higher up into the top half of the table.

Having scored just two goals in their last five fixtures, the Arrows are in a bit of a rut so far. Their inability to score has hurt the side largely as defending hasn’t been the side’s strong suit. Luis Norton’s side will have to regroup quickly after their fixture against Churchill before facing Chennai City FC and focusing more on the attacking front, could help the team achieve a good result against the Southerners.

Gokulam Kerala Vs Shillong Lajong

Date & Venue: 28th January/ EMS Stadium, Kerala

Time & Broadcast: 02:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

Gokulam Kerala have been disastrous this season.  A poor showing on all fronts has resulted in the Kerala based outfit sitting right at the bottom of the table with just seven points from ten games.

They have failed to score in most of their games this season. However, Gokulam's heroics against Chennai City have gave their players a massive boost, which could be handy at their discretion to avoid relegation at the end of the season.

Bino George’s men have already conceded defeat to Shillong Lajong this season in their opening fixture. Kerala’s defence has been miles better than their attack and that’s where their strengths lie. Should they focus on their strengths they will come out of this game with a good result.

Shillong Lajong are struggling to find their feet after their mid-season slump. They have the second lowest goals scored in the league and a result against debutants Kerala can help the team get their season back on track.

 

Published: Sun Jan 21, 2018 06:23 PM IST

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