Goa [India]: Churchill Brothers are all set to host Mohun in a return-leg of the ongoing 12th edition of the I-League at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco Da Gama on Saturday.
The home side are currently third on the table with 29 points from 16 games and cannot afford to drop points at this stage of the league.
Former champions Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, will need a miracle of sorts to win the title for a second time. They are currently sixth after 15 games with 22 points and their fate is no longer in their hands.
Churchill go into the game as clear favourites, not only because they routed Mohun Bagan 3-0 in the first leg in Kolkata, but because despite going down 2-3 against Shillong in their previous game, the Goans have been highly impressive in the league and have shown quality goal-scoring prowess.
Churchill Brothers coach Petre Gigiu said, “Theoretically, we have a chance but practically it is difficult. At this moment, things are not in our hand, we had made our share of mistakes. We want to grow gradually in the next seasons and improve our performance. Overall the team morale is not good and they are tired.”
However, the Goans will miss the services of their midfield lynchpin Khalid Aucho, who has been ruled out due to injury.
The fact that at this league stage, Churchill have scored a huge 10 goals more than Mohun Bagan, reiterates what might just make the difference on Saturday.
Undoubtedly, Churchill will have Trinidadian striker Willis Plaza and Gambian winger Dawda Cessay to thank for their current position in the league after finishing in second from bottom last season.
The ‘deadly duo’ have accounted for 20 of the 29 goals Churchill have scored so far. While Plaza has been the more prolific scorer, topping the charts with 17 goals, Cessay has topped his three goals statistic with an astounding nine assists, the highest in the league.
For the visitors, it has been a tough season, to say the least. The giants of Indian football are used to finishing in the top three almost as a birthright and the sixth position on the current table should hurt them and bring the best out of them.
New coach Khalid Jamil will be in his fourth game in charge of Bagan this season and he shared his thoughts on matchday eve.
“We are not thinking of how we can’t be the champions. We are looking for positive results, the team has to work hard. We never calculate in our position, we have to think about tomorrow’s match which is vital for us,” Khalid Jamil said at the pre-match press conference.
Their premiere striker Dipanda Dicka of Cameroon, who finished the last two editions as top scorer of the league, has been far less prolific this season but is still their top scorer with six goals.
Star Haitian winger Sony Norde, who became a regular only in the second half of the league, has also chipped in with four goals and so has Ugandan Henry Kisekka, but somehow the attacking unit has not worked well together consistently.
They have therefore not been able to hide the obvious creeks in defence, which has been the main weak point for the “Green & Maroons” this Hero I-League season.
Churchill will have to be at their best to put it over Bagan and cannot afford the slight laxity in the approach they showed against Shillong.