Coimbatore: Minerva Punjab and Chennai City will aim for nothing less than a victory when they both square-off at the JLN Stadium here on Friday.
While Minerva chase their maiden I-League title, in contrast Chennai battle for survival in the top-tier and only a win can help them achieve the inevitable.
Amidst contrasting fortunes Chennai play their final league game at home. But face the daunting task of stopping a relentless Minerva who seems to be taking the right steps towards their first title.
“It is a challenge again for us. Tomorrow, it is our last match on our home ground. Only if we win, we can improve our reputation. We will go all out, regardless of the opponent. We have got nothing to lose,” said Chennai head coach V Soundarajan.
His side looked well on course to avoid relegation with an unbeaten run of five games and beat Churchill Brothers 3-1. But their hopes were shattered by East Bengal who ran riot battering the southern club 7-1 and that has left Chennai in a must-win situation against the table leaders on Friday.
With both Indian Arrows and Gokulam Kerala far from relegation worries it comes down to Chennai and Churchill and the latter have two games in hand. That leaves Chennai of not just securing a victory but also hoping that the ‘Red Machines’ lose one of their two matches.
Soundarajan’s boys are currently ninth just a notch above the Arrows. Chennai stand on 16 points from 17 games. A victory will them take them one place above to eight.
“Last match against East Bengal was a challenge for us. Tomorrow, it is a prestige issue. Minerva are in a better position than East Bengal, said head coach of Chennai City Soundararajan. Initially we started well, After that, I dont know what happened to the team. It is a bad defeat for our team. The players also agreed with me,” he added.
Minerva on the other can strengthen their position at the top with a victory. The Chandigarh based club stand on 32 points after 16 games. They have two left and can straight-away secure the title if they win both.
But with the title at sight, coach Khogen Singh will take no chances and is ready to battle to death.
The position or form of the opponent won’t have a bearing in how we prepare for the game said Khogen, suggesting his boys will go directly for the kill.
“We never underestimate the opponents. They had very good support at home in their last game. They are a good side. 90 percent of the football is about the mental strength. If you are mentally fit, you think I can do that. We are strengthening the players mentally,” added the former Air India player.
Meanwhile defending champions Aizawl FC take on Gokulam Kerala on a dead rubber early in day. Their season have gone all southwards after a dream debut but coach Santosh Kashyap instead on signing off on a good note.
Gokulam on the other have nothing to lose and will look to play all out especially after their late resurgence. Three are unbeaten in the last four, three of which have been victories against the top four.