A Three Horse Title Race: The Last Phase of I-League

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The I-League is already down to the last round and with the relegation spots already decided, it’s down to three teams to fight it out on the final day of the season – Gokulam Kerala FC, Churchill Brothers FC Goa, and TRAU FC.

Round 5 of Phase II of the Hero I-League gets underway on Thursday, March 25, at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, where NEROCA FC and Chennai City FC face off against each other, followed by matches between Aizawl FC and Sudeva Delhi FC, and Real Kashmir FC and Mohammedan SC at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium.

The main attraction for Round 5 gets underway on Saturday, March 27, with two matches kicking off simultaneously, as Churchill Brothers take on RoundGlass Punjab FC, and Gokulam Kerala FC face TRAU FC. These are the two matches that will decide the fate of the title.

With Gokulam Kerala, Churchill Brothers, and TRAU FC being locked on 26 points apiece at the top of the table, It’s going to be really difficult to decide who will become the champions.

It is a rather simple equation for Gokulam. The Kerala-based side need to win three points against TRAU, in order to secure their maiden Hero I-League title. The Vincenzo Alberto Annese-coached side have a better head-to-head record against Churchill Brothers, even if Churchill manages to take three points from their match against RoundGlass Punjab.

The Malabarians currently sit on the top of the Hero I-League table thanks to better head-to-head records against both their title rivals. Hence, if both the matches on the March 27 finish in draws, Gokulam Kerala would retain their spot on the top of the table and claim the Hero I-League title. A draw would also be enough for Gokulam if Churchill suffers a loss against RoundGlass Punjab, courtesy of their better head-to-head record against the Manipuri side.

While Gokulam Kerala are perched at the top of the table, TRAU are not too far behind. A victory against Gokulam in their final matchday will ensure that the Malabarians do not win the Hero I-League title. Realistically, a win should be enough to secure their maiden Hero I-League title for TRAU FC as well. In a scenario where both TRAU and Churchill win their respective matches on the final day, TRAU are more likely to emerge as the Hero I-League champions.

Goal Difference Separating the I-League Title Runners:

The Imphal-based side has drawn its two games against Churchill Brothers. With no clear winner on the head-to-head record between these two sides, the overall goal difference will come into play. While TRAU currently haVE a goal difference of +11, Churchill is on +4. This means that even if the TRAU and Churchill Brothers win their respective games, the former need to ensure that their overall goal difference is higher than that of the Goan side.

While we go through all the permutations and combinations, one thing is quite clear – anything less than a win, and TRAU’s title efforts will fall flat.

While one could say that the fate of both Gokulam Kerala and TRAU FC are in their respective hands, making the clash at the KBK like a virtual final, Churchill Brothers would be looking for a favorable result from that game. The best-case scenario for the Red Machines is if the match between TRAU and Gokulam Kerala endS in a draw, and they themselves go on to beat RoundGlass Punjab. This would make them the clear champions of the Hero I-League by virtue of points.

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