I-League Week 2 Preview: East Bengal host Shillong Lajong as Mohun Bagan entertain Churchill Brothers
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
Elsewhere, Gokulam make their home league bow against southern rivals Chennai City and Arrows host Minerva Punjab.
The I-League is off to a cracking start with the first few games of the season proving how exciting it is going to be this time when it's competing with the Indian Super League. There were some surprises in Week 1, with Indian Arrows making a spectacular start to their season with a crushing 3-0 win over Chennai City.
Aizawl FC also showed stuff off champions after they came back from a 0-2 deficit to draw 2-2 against East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium, while Minerva Punjab and Shillong Lajong also got impressive results of their own. The Kolkata clubs have some picking up to do in some tricky games in the coming week. Shillong and Arrows will look to keep their impressive run going, while the Southern clubs in Chennai City and Gokulam Kerala also lock horns.
Gokulam Kerala FC Vs Chennai City FC
Date & Venue: 4th December/ EMS Corporation Stadium, Calicut
Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2 And Star Sports 2 HD
Gokulam showed signs of nervousness in their first match in the I-League, when they were guilty of playing way too defensive against Shillong Lajong. They rarely tried to threaten Shillong's defense and weren't helped by the difficult conditions. Kerala can prove their worth in a crunch match against southern rivals Chennai City, who themselves were destroyed by Indian Arrows. It's the perfect platform for Kerala to introduce themselves in the I-League, and they will look to entertain their faithful in the EMS Corporation Stadium. Bino George has something to prove in this match, and he'll hope his boys can show everyone their ability to compete by getting their first win in the I-League.
Chennai received a stern reality check when they were humiliated by newcomers Indian Arrows and lost 3-0 to the U-19 lads! While they looked to be improving towards the end of last season, Chennai have started this one miserably and will look to avenge that defeat against another newcomer in Gokulam. It's a matter of pride for Chennai, who cannot lose to another debutant in the league and another defeat could terribly derail their chances of a good outing this season.
Indian Arrows Vs Minerva Punjab FC
Date & Venue: 5th December/ GMC Bambolin, Goa.
Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD
Indian Arrows proved their immaculate potential by surprising many and defeating Chennai 3-0 in their first match in the I-League. They were completely dominant on the day and seemed like a well-drilled machine, with their chemistry shining through in the match. The U-19 stars tore apart the Chennai City defense on the day and went top of the league with their dominating win. But. things will be different against Minerva Punjab, who proved to be a stubborn opponent for Mohun Bagan on opening day. Punjab seem to be a really good side this season and will be a daunting task for Arrows, but they have overcome challenges in the past and will look to continue their stunning run.
Minerva look like a rejuvenated side in the I-League this season, and they GOT off to a positive start by getting a point from Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. Super-sub Moinuddin Khan scored a late equalizer for them. But, now they face a daunting task against the flying Indian Arrows, which features some players who have come out of their own academy, including star Jeakson Singh. Minerva will need to be wary defensively, but they'll definitely keep threatening and try to play attacking football to deter the confidence of the young stars and will look to get their first win on the board.
I-League Standing after first week action.
Gokulam Kerala FC Vs NEROCA FC
Date & Venue: 9th December/ EMS Corporation Stadium, Calicut
Time & Broadcast: 02:00 PM/ Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD
Gokulam have some crunch games in the next few weeks, with them facing not only their southern rivals Chennai City FC, but also newcomers NEROCA FC as well. NEROCA won the I-League 2nd Division to book a place in the top tier this season, but Kerala will look to spoil their party and will need to reap up some points in these two games.
NEROCA FC surprised many with their amazing outing in the I-League 2nd Division last season, where they fended off a lot of competition to comprehensively win the title and book a place in the I-League this season. They are the first Manipuri club to play in the top tier of Indian football and come into the season with the hopes of many riding on them. NEROCA like to play some attacking football and had a decent pre-season against some heavyweight teams as well.
East Bengal Vs Shillong Lajong FC
Date & Venue: 9th December/ Salt Lake Stadium
Time & Broadcast: 05:30 PM/ Star Sports 1
East Bengal seemed to be in seventh heaven in their opening match against Aizawl FC, as the Red and Gold Brigade were cruising with a 2-0 lead with 15 minutes to go. But, the defending champions then mounted an amazing comeback, with EB dropping two precious points in the end. Khalid Jamil may have been calm even after the collapse, but he will need to reap up the wins if they are to compete in the league this season.
After a lost in the Kolkata Derby, they face the stern challenge against Shillong Lajong who look really dangerous this time. East Bengal will need to be defensively solid and play the free-flowing football we all saw against Aizawl, and Jamil won't be satisfied with anything but a win in this kind of an important match for their title hopes.
Shillong Lajong HAVE IT it rather easy in their first two games which are in front of their home support but face their first real test against East Bengal away. Lajong will need to be wary of the threat the Kolkata giants possess and will need to play well defensively as well as attacking-wise to get some points off this difficult fixture.
They'll look to capitalize on KEB'S leaky defense and play on the counter-attack and will hope their defenders can be solid on the day. It's an important early challenge for Lajong from which they will look to emerge successfully.
Mohun Bagan Vs Churchill Brothers
Date & Venue: 10th December/ Salt Lake Stadium
Time & Broadcast: 02:00 PM/ Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 2 HD
Mohun Bagan haven't gotten off to the "dream" start to their season, with a draw against Minerva Punjab but win against arch-rivals East Bengal in the Kolkata derby have bring their campaign on track. The Mariners will look to launch a proper title charge this season with the kind of players they have, but they will have to show some consistency in their games. Bagan will not have it easy against a team like Churchill Brothers, who will be wary of their threat and will play defensive football to try and go away with a point. The Mariners need to show their attacking brilliance and will hope the chemistry between stars Sony Norde and Asier Dipanda is formed by then, in which case Bagan could be absolutely unstoppable this season.
Churchill Brothers don't really have the easiest of starts to their I-League season and after a difficult trip to Shillong for their opener, they'll have to travel to the city of Kolkata to play favorites for the title in Mohun Bagan. Churchill Brothers have a lot of preparation coming into these games, so we can expect them to be pretty fit going into the game. Churchill's new-look side can be a real threat to these "big teams", who can suffer for underestimating them in these kinds of games. Churchill will look to gain any point possible against Bagan and will need to be absolutely concentrated and ready to contain the threat of the Mariners.
Published: Mon Dec 04, 2017 01:15 PM IST