I-League Qualifiers: All eyes on Mohammedan Sporting as Indian football returns

Mohammedan Sporting will begin as the favourite to seal the lone I-League spot on offer as the I-League Qualifiers begin in West Bengal on Thursday.

Mohammedan Sporting

Having previously played in the in the 2013-14 I-League season, Mohammedan Sporting will be the side to look out for at the I-League Qualifiers.   -  AIFF/I-League

A new-look Mohammedan Sporting Club will start as the favourite to claim the lone I-League spot on offer as the I-League Qualifiers begin in West Bengal on Thursday.

The I-League Qualifiers will mark the beginning of the 2020-21 Indian football season and will be held behind closed doors.

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The opening matchday will see Bhawanipore FC take on FC Bengaluru United at the Salt Lake Stadium at 12:30pm, while Mohammedan SC will face Garhwal FC at 4:30pm at the Kalyani Stadium. All matches will be held at the same time slots, except for the final day, when both matches will be played at 2pm.

Each team will play each other once in a round-robin format and the team that tops the table after the final matchday will be promoted to the I-League, which is expected to start in December.

- All eyes on Mohammedan Sporting -

Mohammedan Sporting has made some key foreign signings this season including the arrival of defender Eze Kingsley and a former East Bengal forward Willis Plaza. The side has also roped in another foreign striker in Nepalese international Abhishek Rijal.

Having previously played in the in the 2013-14 I-League season, Mohammedan Sporting will be the side to look out for.

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If it were to qualify, Mohammedan Sporting will have the unique chance of being the only Kolkata club in the I-League following Mohun Bagan and East Bengal's switch to the Indian Super League.

Talking ahead of his side's opening clash, Mohammedan Sporting coach Yan Law said, “Every match is like a final. I have signed proven players including the foreigners. Hopefully, we can take this team up and do well in I-League.”

The team had arrived in Kalyani over a month ago and has adapted to the conditions.

“For us, the first step is to get into I-League. We have a good team, and we have not had such a time for long,” he added.

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Mohammedan Sporting will face stiff competition from local rival Bhawanipore FC. With former Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty at the helm, Bhawanipore has also signed former NEROCA FC striker Philip Adjah.

Garhwal FC’s Nigerian captain Bala Dahir was confident of his side's progression to the I-League spot, while FC Bengaluru United could be seen as the dark horse. The side is coached by Richard Hood, who will be assisted by former India captain Gouramangi Singh.

Meanwhile, Ahmedabad-based ARA FC will look to make history by becoming the first team from Gujarat to play in the I-League.

With inputs from PTI

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