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I-League Week 3: High-flying Kolkata giants look to extend lead at the top of the table

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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Khuman Lampak Main Stadium set to host first ever I-League game.

The I-League kick-started last month with arguably the biggest fixture in the league when Mohun Bagan defeated rivals East Bengal to gain the bragging rights in the Kolkata Derby. The Mariners look to be in amazing form after that derby win, as they thrashed Churchill Brothers in a 5-0 thumping in the weekend, while East Bengal recovered emphatically from the defeat by thumping Shillong Lajong. Lajong had started the season well with their young team working wonders in the first two matches, but were humbled in a 5-1 thrashing from Bengal.

While some teams are already on cloud nine, defending champions Aizawl FC have some catching up to do after their slow start to the campaign. They'll look to catch up with the top by gaining maximum points in midweek, while the struggling Churchill Brothers and Chennai City look to get their first wins in the I-League as well. So let's have a look at the preview for game-week 3 of the I-League.

Minerva Punjab FC Vs Chennai City FC

Date & Venue: 11th December/ Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana

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

Minerva look to continue good start to season

Minerva Punjab has had a dream start to their season, winning two matches and drawing one in their first three games in the league. They've already won as many matches they did in the entirety of last season, proving their development in a year. Punjab now sit at the top of the league and look to be really dangerous at home, and will look for another win against Chennai City FC.

They'll look to increase their goal-difference against this weak Chennai City side, who aren't looking that good defensively this season. Ranjit Bajaj's team are looking like a commendable side this time out, and another win can keep them at the top for another week as they look for a high-up finish this season.

Chennai City FC haven't looked like the impressive side which finished last season's I-League on a high and performed well in the Federation Cup last season, with V. Soundrarajan's side getting off to a really poor start this season. They recovered decently after the thrashing from Indian Arrows, as they managed to get a draw against Gokulam Kerala and face another daunting task away to Minerva Punjab.

Chennai City are going through all sorts of problems internally, with their stadium not being finished in time a reason for the delay of the I-League. But they showed great attacking intent against Kerala which got them the point, and could create some real problems for Minerva if they continue playing positive attacking football.

Aizawl FC Vs Churchill Brothers

Date & Venue: 12th December/ Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl.

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

Reigning champions Aizawl already trying to catch up with the top

Aizawl FC displayed stuff of champions when they pegged back from being two goals down to get a remarkable draw against Khalid Jamil's East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium. The champions will return to their den later this week when they face the struggling Churchill Brothers who are taking their time to gel as a unit.

Aizawl FC actually seemed to be impressive attacking-wise against Bengal, with their set-pieces being especially great. Paulo Meneses seems to have built a strong side this time and will look to entertain their faithful by starting off with a bang and getting their first win in this important season, in which they look to defend their title and do the "impossible" once again.

Churchill Brothers haven't received the most "suitable" schedule and were demolished by Mohun Bagan in the weekend, showing how weak they are defensively. They lost to a vibrant Shillong Lajong side in their opening match and will find it difficult at Aizawl next.

Aizawl is always a daunting place to visit, but Churchill needs to scrape a point off these important games to have a chance of a decent finish at the end. They've lost their core from last season, but will need to find the proper team chemistry if they are to survive in the I-League and will look to spoil the fun for Aizawl and gain a valuable point against the champions.


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Mohun Bagan Vs Shillong Lajong FC

Date & Venue: 14th December/ Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata

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

Mohun Bagan are hitting their stride

Mohun Bagan kick-started their I-League season with style by defeating rivals East Bengal in the first Kolkata Derby of the season and went to the top of the table with an incredible win against Churchill Brothers.  Bagan have a great chance at taking an early lead in the title race with their next few games, winning which could help them gain a lead at the top of the table. But The Mariners will not have it easy against the dangerous Shillong Lajong FC, who will look to reply strongly after their embarrassing loss to Bengal.

The Mariners will look to continue their free-flowing style of football and produce another attacking masterclass in front of their supporters, and with their attacking trio of Norde, Dicka and Kromah being supported by a solid midfield, the Mariners look to be an absolute nightmare for defences. A win against Lajong could make all the difference for them, and establish a lead at the top of the table.

Shillong Lajong were brought down to earth when East Bengal ripped them apart in the weekend, with the 1-5 loss bringing the high-flyers back to reality. They now face another Kolkata giant in Mohun Bagan, who are looking to continue their impressive form and will look to outdo their city rivals. But one thing we can expect Lajong to do is to play on the attack, but they will have to defend better to contain the attacking threat of the Mariners, who have a lot of ways to hurt Shillong.

Shillong has a vibrant youth squad this time which can be a hit or fail in crunch games, but one can only wait and watch how the team grows as a unit as the season progresses, but a win against Bagan could definitely bring them back into becoming favourites for the title.

NEROCA FC Vs Chennai City FC

Date & Venue: 15th December/ Khuman Lapak Stadium, Imphal.

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

NEROCA FC keen to build on first top-flight win

NEROCA FC responded amazingly with a thumping 0-3 win over Gokulam Kerala FC in the weekend after having a disappointing beginning to their I-League campaign. Despite being beaten by the superior Minerva, NEROCA proved their mettle by comprehensively humbling Kerala at their own ground and showing their dangerous attacking prowess. They look really strong in attack and will look to get a similar result in their first home game of the season.

The newly-promoted side face Chennai City FC in their first home game of the season and will look to get another win under their belt against the struggling Chennai. It won't be easy, but NEROCA should sail towards another three points and if they continue their dazzling attacking display in a consistent basis, their supporters can be in for a treat.

Chennai City FC may not have luck on their side, with their early schedule being filled with difficult games, and they won't have it easy at all against the high-flying NEROCA FC. Chennai showed some improvement in the Southern Derby against Gokulam Kerala and can definitely cause NEROCA some problems if they keep on attacking like they did against the other newcomer to the I-league.

Chennai City needs a win under their belt to gain some confidence after a disappointing start to the season, and getting 3 points against this dangerous NEROCA can definitely get them the confidence boost they need. One can expect the game to be an end-to-end one because of both sides being hungry for three points, but Chennai's experience in the league could give them a precious win on the day.

East Bengal Vs Churchill Brothers

Date & Venue: 16th December/ Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata.

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

East Bengal continue to bounce back from derby debacle

East Bengal bounced back from the derby defeat perfectly with an emphatic 5-1 win over Shillong Lajong in the weekend, where they proved just how driven and clinical they can be.  Bengal faces Churchill Brothers later this week, a match where they'll look to continue their brilliant attacking-style of game-play and get more important points on the board to compete at the top.

Khalid Jamil's men need to show some consistency now after that emphatic win, and they'll look to prove how that one was no fluke with another dominant display against Churchill. The Red and Gold Brigaders have a very strong attacking line which can tear apart any defense in the league, and they will look to enthral their fans and get a solid win before some tricky fixtures later this month.

It's going to be a tough week for Churchill Brothers in the I-League, as they not only face defending champions Aizawl in mid-week but also face East Bengal who are looking to bounce back strongly from their Derby defeat. Mykola Shevchenko's side will have to show a lot of resurgences to get anything out of the game against Khalid  Jamil's side, who will go all out to get a thumping victory over the Goan side.

But Churchill have proven themselves to be a thorn in the side of the "top" clubs in the past and will make it really difficult for The Red and Gold Brigaders to get anything out of the game. They have some pacy attackers who can be dangerous in counter-attack, and Churchill can defend well and contain the East Bengal attackers, then they might have a good chance of causing an upset and going home with all three points on the day.

Published: Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:53 AM IST

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