On a busy day in the I-League, there are four matches to look forward to. These are with clubs located near to one other in the midfield.
Saturday marks the start of the last round of the Hero I-League 2022-23. Eight of the twelve league positions (apart from the top two and bottom two) are still up for grabs, but all teams are aiming to finish as high as possible on the table in order to get a higher seeding in the upcoming Hero Super Cup Qualifiers, which will be held in Kerala next month.
On March 11, 2023, four games will be played. NEROCA FC will meet Churchill Brothers Goa at Imphal’s Khuman Lampak Stadium. While Mohammedan Sporting will face Sudeva Delhi at Kolkata’s Kishore Bharati Krirangan, both at 2:00 p.m. IST. Later, at 4:30 p.m. IST. Rajasthan United will meet Real Kashmir at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi. While Aizawl FC will face Mumbai Kenkre at the Cooperage Stadium in Mumbai.
Aizawl, NEROCA, and Rajasthan United are presently equal on 25 points, occupying the seventh, eighth, and ninth spots, respectively, and are separated only by goal difference (head-to-head will only be taken into account after the result between NEROCA and Churchill). Aizawl’s win over Kenkre would move them up to seventh position, but a slip-up might allow NEROCA or Rajasthan United, both of whom play at home, to seize the spot.
Mohammedan Sporting, now tenth and two points behind Rajasthan United, may possibly enter the race and finish as high as seventh if Aizawl, NEROCA, and Rajasthan United all lose their respective games. Teams finishing ninth and tenth will have to engage in an additional play-off for the Hero Super Cup Qualifiers, which means that these four teams will be battling for a top-eight finish in their final matches.
While Sudeva Delhi and Mumbai Kenkre have already been relegated, Real Kashmir and Churchill Brothers are only one point apart in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Nevertheless, none of the two teams may finish higher than fifth or be passed by any team below them. On April 6, they will compete in the Hero Super Cup Qualification.
Finishing the season on a high note
Although a game against relegated Mumbai Kenkre may appear to be a stroll in the park, Aizawl will need to play far better than in prior games. The People’s Club are now on a six-game losing run, and its fans will be hoping for a better conclusion to the season.
“There’s no easy team in the I-League,” Aizawl FC head coach Caetano Pinho told the reporters during the pre-match news conference. Looking at the two teams, I believe they are both balanced, but it will be their home game. I hope our guys take advantage of their opportunities tomorrow.”
Pinho’s opponent, Mumbai Kenkre head coach Akhil Kothari, wants to win the game for the fans, saying, “It’s our final game, and we will want to end on a high note and give our supporters, who have been with us all along, something to cheer about.”
Gyan Moyon weighs in
In Imphal, NEROCA will face sixth-placed Churchill Brothers, who have lost their last two away games. “We won our last game against Mohammedan,” said their assistant coach Gyan Moyon, “but we take every game seriously, and we are looking forward to winning the last match of the season for all our supporters and our family.”
It will be Churchill Brothers’ third game away from home in a row. And assistant coach Mateus Costa feels the journey has taken its toll. Yet, the Indian appeared to be in a good mood on the eve of the game. “Our previous game in Mizoram was also a tough one, but we need to end the season well, and maybe we’ll earn three points tomorrow,” Costa added.
Rajasthan United head coach Pushpender Kundu looked back on his team’s opening-round triumph over Churchill Brothers in November, wanting to finish the season the same way it started. “We started the season with a win in Goa, and we want to conclude the season the same way tomorrow – by beating Real Kashmir,” Kundu added.
Gifton Noel-Williams, Real Kashmir’s technical director, is aiming to extend his team’s undefeated streak to eight games. The Snow Leopards’ season, according to the Englishman, has been a wonderful learning experience for the young players. “I am confident they learnt a lot from this season and from my time with them,” he remarked.
Mehrajuddin Wadoo anticipates a difficult game
In Kolkata, Mohammedan Sporting head coach Mehrajuddin Wadoo hopes to please his supporters by defeating his old side Sudeva Delhi. “It’s true that neither team has much in the game; yet, I am anticipating a difficult battle,” the Indian added. It’s our final home game of the season, so we want to win for the fans.”
As Sudeva Delhi’s season is coming to a close, its head coach, Sankarlal Chakraborty, is optimistic about the club’s policy of giving young players opportunity. “Winning and losing is part of the game,” he remarked. Our goal at the club was to provide young players opportunities. And develop potential for the national team, and the squad did a good job in that regard this season.”
All four games will be broadcasted live on Eurosport and Doordarshan Sports. IT will also be streamed on the Discovery Plus OTT platform.
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