I-League: Minerva Punjab takes on Mohun Bagan in a battle of strugglers

The champion Punjab has found goals hard to come by while Mohun Bagan is failing to cross the line in its I-League matches.

Minerva Punjab has won two of its last three matches. (FILE IMAGE)   -  AIFF MEDIA

Both Minerva Punjab and Mohun Bagan, which have found the going tough in the ongoing I-League season, will be geared for battle at Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula on Wednesday.

The champion Punjab has found goals hard to come by while Mohun Bagan is failing to cross the line in its matches.

As a result, Minerva finds itself in the fifth place on the points table with 12 points from eight games while the Kolkata giant has played a game less for its nine points and is in the eighth position.

The champion has bolstered its squad along the way with Irish coach Paul Munster obviously looking to plug gaps. It has brought in Nigerians Bala Dahir and Donatus Edafe as well as Ivorian Kouassi Kouame to strengthen its midfield and attack.

Japanese striker Yu Kuboki also started his first game in Minerva’s previous encounter against Chennai City after not featuring in any of its first seven games due to injury. Colombian defender Jorge Ivan Caicedo Rodriguez is its latest signing to beef up the defence.

Minerva clearly start favourite given it has notched up two wins in its last three games while Bagan has lost two and drawn one going into Thursday’s game.

Paul Munster seemed to suggest just that on the eve of the match. He said, “This game is massive. In our last game we got a clean sheet. This is where we have to take our chances. In our last game we got many chances but now we have to convert them.

“We can’t say anything about the result. We just have to look forward. This game is all about the better team who will win the game. It’s a massive game for us,” said Munster.

Mohun Bagan's star winger Sony Norde's (R) is ruled out of the match against Minerva due to an injury.   -  AIFF MEDIA

 

Bagan, on the other hand, has been having injury woes with star winger Sony Norde of Haiti missing out on the ‘Kolkata Derby’ loss against arch-rival East Bengal in the last game. Talented young winger Pintu Mahata has also been sidelined due to injury and so has Sukhdev Singh, the former Minerva defender whose recruitment was cleared recently.

Coach Sankarlal Chakraborty betrayed signs of both desperation and frustration on the match-day eve, when he said, “We won’t say that we are not playing good. We are playing well but not being able to gather three points. We are trying our level best. Yes, we have lost two-three but the team mentally and physically are active,” said Sankarlal.

“When the team travels there is a mental impact. We have come here to collect three points and we have to get three points anyhow. Bagan is always charged up for new challenges. Kudos to Minerva for playing great football in the last few matches,” he said.

Minerva has conceded just five but also scored just six. Bagan, on the other hand, has scored nine but conceded 10 and is going to miss its defensive bulwark Eze Kingsley on Thursday, as the Nigerian was sent off for a second bookable offence against arch-rival East Bengal on Sunday. Its only silver lining being two-time I-League top scorer Dipanda Dicka being in form with four goals so far including a super strike against the Red and Golds.

It will be the Cameroonian Dicka against the miserly Minerva defence on one hand, while a wobbly Bagan defence will try to keep a bolstered Minerva attack at bay. All in all, an absorbing encounter on the cards.