Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) FC will host defending champion Chennai City FC at the Khuman Lumpak Stadium on Sunday as both teams look to get back to winning ways.
Runaway league leader Mohun Bagan might have opened an 11-point gap between itself and Punjab FC, but the remainder of the table still remains waterlogged, with only six points separating the second and tenth places.
TRAU and Chennai are currently separated by just a point, placed fifth (15 points) and seventh (14 points) respectively.
TRAU suffered a 0-5 hammering at the hands of its city-rival NEROCA before losing again in its subsequent away trip to Aizawl. A third defeat in a row could possibly go on to derail its campaign.
However, club captain Princewill Emeka was upbeat ahead of the game.
“We are, of course, disappointed to have lost two games in a row but you look at our team and you will see players who are ready for any challenge that comes their way.
“The defeat won’t be on the back of our heads when we’ll go to fight against Chennai City. We have shown what we are capable of as a team. It won’t be easy against the defending champions, but we are ready,” he concluded.
Chennai City began its I-League title defence against TRAU on the opening weekend, winning 1-0 in Coimbatore. It had a nervy spell where it found itself in a relegation scrap but climbed back into the top four with two back-to-back wins over Indian Arrows and Churchill Brothers. Its hopes of getting back in the title race, however, were deflated severely by a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Gokulam Kerala in the Southern Derby.
Chennai has been left disappointed to not be in the higher dominions of the table but head coach Akbar Nawas isn’t prepared to give up on the chase just yet.
“Realistically, we are still not giving up on the title chase until it’s mathematically impossible. We did well in the last game despite not getting the win but against TRAU, I am confident. They like to play too. It will be interesting,” he said.
Punjab, Real Kashmir desperate to keep title hopes alive
Two teams that are vying to stay alive in the title race are slated to lock horns as Punjab FC welcomes its northern counterpart Real Kashmir FC to the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana.
Punjab will be coming into this fixture on the back of a disappointing trip to Kolkata, having picked up just one point out of a possible six against runaway leader Mohun Bagan and currently-relegation battling Quess East Bengal.
The solitary point return has allowed the Mariners to shed clear daylight between itself and the chasing pack, sitting at the top 11 points clear of the Yan Law-coached team in second place.
However, Yan Law, head coach of Punjab FC, assured that the race for the I-League crown isn’t over yet. Speaking ahead of its next challenge against Real Kashmir, he said, “Honestly, the league has gotten tougher. Every team has started picking up pace. Although we are placed second, the gap between us and the league leader is quite big but we haven't lost any hope yet.
“We are going to keep working hard and keep fighting to close the gap between us and Mohun Bagan.”
The gaffer added, “The title race is still wide open. Kashmir are doing well and have picked up valuable points in their last couple of games. They are going to come and play us with high confidence.”
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Coming into this fixture after an eight-day break, Real Kashmir will leapfrog Punjab to second in the table should it win but the visitor will be wary of the challenges an away trip to Ludhiana brings.
David Robertson, head coach of Real Kashmir FC weighed in on the same and said, “Ludhiana is a tough place to travel to but the break has given us time to prepare. We got back to Srinagar for a few days to practice, so we have made the most of our interval.”
The Snow Leopards have succumbed to just one away defeat in their I-League tenure, going back to their debut in the 2017-18 season and Robertson has taken note of the statistic and drawn confidence.
“Home advantage is always there to play a crucial role no matter who it is. But, we take confidence in the fact we have only lost only one away league game in Hero I-League so far. We played Aizawl in our last game, who were unbeaten at home, and managed to get all three points. Having said that, we know Punjab are a good team and are second in the league for a reason”, the Scot concluded.
The match is scheduled for a 2 PM kick-off and will be broadcast LIVE on 1Sports , with online streaming available on the Fancode app and website.
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