I-League: On cusp of maiden title, Chennai City takes on Churchill Brothers

The match will see I-League's top two scorers, Chennai City’s Pedro Manzi (19 goals) and Churchill Brothers' Willis Plaza (18 goals), go head-to-head.

A win against Churchill Brothers will seal the title for Chennai City FC.   -  AIFF Media

Chennai City FC is on the cusp of glory. After the club had a forgettable season last year (finishing eighth), Abdul Nawas was appointed as the head coach and he has made a fantastic turnaround this campaign. All Chennai City needs now is one win from its last two matches to bag its maiden I-League title.

Master strategist Nawas is understandably eager to win the penultimate league game, against Churchill Brothers at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Goa on Friday, and clinch the title.

Watch: Who will win the I-League?

Given the fabulous show thus far, Nawas admitted that finishing in the top four was the aim before the start of the tournament.

ClubMatches playedWinsDrawsLossesGFGAGDPoints
1. Chennai City18124243241940
2. East Bengal18113434191536
3. Real Kashmir1896322121033


"What we have achieved has been far and beyond what we expected. Realistically, we wanted to be in the top 6 and hopefully in top 4," he said in the pre-match conference.

Nawas credited his Spanish quartet— Pedro Manzi, Roberto Eslava Suarez, Sandro Rodriguez Felipe and Nestor Gordillo — for seamlessly integrating with the Indian players. Manzi is the league's top goal-scorer with 19 goals, closely followed by Churchill’s Willis Plaza with 18.

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"They (Spain players) were willing to let go of their egos," he said, explaining the bond between the foreign and Indian players in the squad. He also stressed on the huge improvements made by the local players.

On the game against Churchill, the Singaporean coach said, "They are not an easy team. They have a good bunch of local players who are so composed on the ball."

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Churchill's head coach Petr Gigui (2L) with Chennai's head coach Akbar Nawas (2R) ahead of the game on Friday.   -  Special Arrangement

 

In the match in Coimbatore earlier this season, Churchill held Chennai City to a 2-2 draw.

RELATED | East Bengal remains in title race with 2-1 win over Real Kashmir

Talking about his team's performance this season, Petre Gigiu said the away loss to Neroca was what started the decline and the team wasn't helped by injuries to a few key players. In the clash against Chennai City, Churchill will be without the services of Richard Costa, Rowilson Rodriguez, James Kithan and Nallappan Mohanraj.

Petre, nevertheless, said he was proud of his players. “From being way below in the table [at one point] to now be in the fourth position (at 31 points), is very good,” he said.

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