Bengaluru FC meets Salgaocar with eye on title

The stakes are high - if Bengaluru FC takes three points against Salgaocar, it will emerge as the I-League champion for the second time in three years.

Bengaluru FC won the I-League title in its debut season in 2013/14.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In its previous five I-League encounters, Bengaluru FC (BFC) has defeated Salgaocar FC on every occasion. If BFC can post a sixth victory, on Sunday, it will be the most vital of them all.

The stakes are high - if the home side takes three points, it will emerge as the I-League champion for the second time in three years.

The recent form guide, however, does not reveal a clear favourite. While BFC has posted four wins in its last five matches (including two victories in the AFC Cup), Salgaocar has notched up three wins and two draws to escape from the relegation zone.

BFC striker Sunil Chhetri, part of Churchill Brothers' title run in 2013, insists that the visitor is a much improved side, and points to an away victory at Aizawl FC last week as proof. This aside, it can be said for certain that winning the league in front of an adoring home crowd at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here presents the ideal scenario for Chhetri and his teammates.

Chhetri himself is doing his best to keep his younger peers on level ground. "We are trying to be relaxed, as thinking too much can result in mistakes on the pitch. The boys are calm - doing their training, chatting, and playing table tennis," the India international said.

In attack, it will be Chhetri and North Korean import Kim Song-Yong - the two leading goal-scorers for the unit (five each) - who stand out. Midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh, a key part of BFC's success this season, will be expected to pull the strings once again.

Salgaocar, meanwhile, has relied heavily on Daryl Duffy to do the job up front. The Scotsman (11 goals) is second on the I-League's top goal-scorer list, but he has been suspended for picking up four yellow cards.