Kolkata: Not every league can boast of the excitement the I-League brings to the fans of Indian football. While most leagues tends to become a one-sided affair as time pass by, India’s top-division league gets more competitive as it drowns into the horizon.
Almost every game, as the season oozes down becomes a highly contested affair as teams bleed to drill out a result. While some battle for the crown, some fight to prevent a downfall into the relegation zone.
One reason that has kept the I-League a hot favourite among the fans is perhaps its unpredictability — a situation where no team is the clear winner until the last match is played.
Aizawl FC managed to do it last term, depite Mohun Bagan snarling down below, while the Mariners themselves had accomplished the crown from Bengaluru’s jaws three seasons ago and this year is no different.
With just 11 games remaining, I-League season 2017-18 is nearing it’s business end, but not one team can claim the title yet.
Neroca currently lead the table, with 31 points after 17 games but ironically are the least favourites to win it. They have lost just four times in the entire season, which is unbelievably a staggering result for a team that’s making it’s debut in top-division football. But that those defeats came in crucial junctures have made it almost impossible for the ‘People’s Club’ to seek glory. They play their final match against East Bengal on the season’s final day, but a victory may still not see them through.
Contrastingly, the Red and Golds are third but stand with the second best chance to win their maiden title. They stand on 26 points and require three victories in as many games against Chennai City, Lajong and Neroca. That they play two of those three at home will make things easier for them but East Bengal still will have to be dependant on Minerva Punjab dropping atleast three points, from the same number of matches.
Their current form however pits them on the wrong end. In the last five, East Bengal have lost two and drawn one. Whether those two defeats will come hard on them, may be discussed later but every game from here will be no less than a do-or-die from Khalid Jamil’s boys.
Minerva Punjab meanwhile remain the top-contender to clinch the title in their only second year at the top-division. It has been a remarkable turnaround for the ‘Warriors’ who from saving themselves from being relegated in the previous campaign have transformed into a title-contender in a space of 24 months.
The Chandigarh based club are second on the table with 29 points from 15 matches. But although they remain with the best opportunity to secure the championship, their current form will certainly give a slight hope to other teams.
Minerva in the last five matches have won just one and lost three, the other being a draw. They play Aizawl, Chennai and Churchill in their remaining three games and although all three have been struggling, the fear of being relegated will bring the best out of them, making it tough for MPFC.
But Minerva can still relax because even a win, in three matches may still give them a narrow chance, given Neroca don’t win their final match. East Bengal meanwhile have to lose atleast one match in that case, while Minerva will hope to rack up goals in the opposition’s end.