It is a battle between the first and the last as Hero I-League 2017-18 table toppers Kingfisher East Bengal takes on bottom-placed Churchill Brothers SC in a crucial clash for both the sides at the Tilak Maidan, Vasco (Goa) on Monday (January 8, 2018).
East Bengal who are on 17 points lead second-placed Minerva Punjab FC by a solitary point would be hungry for all three points to cement their position at the top.
“We are only thinking about tomorrow. There is still a long way to go and we are going step by step. Tomorrow’s match is vital for us”, Kingfisher East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil said at the pre-match press conference.
Meanwhile, Churchill Brothers would be considering this a six-pointer having endured five straight defeats.
“You can say it is a six-pointer. I hope tomorrow’s match will be the turnaround for us,” Churchill Brothers coach Alfred Fernandes said.
The reverse fixture in Kolkata was arguably one of the cracking games of the season which ended 3-2 in favour of the Kolkata outfit as Willis Plaza scored in the last minute of the added time.
“We found it very difficult in the last match against them at home. We got lucky you can say. It is always difficult to play away match against Churchill,” Khalid suggested.
“Since I-League started, we never had a convincing win or an easy victory. Every team we played we had difficult victories,” Willis Plaza who scored the winner against Churchill Bros said.
Khalid Jamil’s men are on a six-match unbeaten streak with five victories and one draw. The Red and Golds have the best goal ratio in the league (+8) after pumping in 16 goals. And they have in their ranks the joint-league top-scorer in the form of Yusa Katsumi with five so far.
As for Churchill Brothers, their stats makes for grim reading with five straight defeats and a negative goal ratio of (-11) goals. They have scored only two goals so far. But they can take encouragement from the fact both goals were scored against Kingfisher East Bengal.
In a bid to stem the rot, the Goan Club has bolstered their squad with new arrivals. Ivorian Koffi Mechac is the most notable signing alongside Bektur Talgat (Kyrgyzstan) who had a previous stint with the Reds.
The other new recruits include Cisse Gwada (Gambia), Hussein Eldor (Lebanon) and Indian players Jovel Martins, Wayne Vaz and Pawan Kumar. It remains to be seen if these new faces can bring some cheer to the West Coast of Goa and breathe new life into the only Goan representative in the Hero I-League.
“It is like we have to score an ace tomorrow like in Tennis to get us out of this situation,” Alfred said.
The team will be looking for inspiration from Koffi who is expected to take the goalscoring burden.
“I scored a lot of goals before in Oman league. But that is history now I’m only focussed on Churchill Brothers. They are my new team, my new family,” the striker said.
“It will be a new challenge because we don’t know who is going to start. It will be a difficult task,” Khalid concluded.
The match is scheduled at 08:00 PM and it’ll be telecast live on Star Sports 2, 2 HD and streamed live on Hotstar, Jio TV.