The I-League title race is to witness a four-way scrap on the final day of the tournament with Minerva Punjab FC, Neroca FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in contention for the top prize.
Table toppers Minerva host struggling Churchill Brothers, while Neroca travel to Kolkata to face the challenge of East Bengal. Third-placed Mohun Bagan will face Gokulam Kerala away.
To ensure no team has any undue advantage due to scheduling, the I-League confirmed that the three matches involving the four teams will be played simultaneously on Thursday, March 8 with kickoff at 3 PM IST.
“It’s now a common trend for the I-League to go down the wire with the title being decided on the final day. It speaks volume about the competitiveness in the League,” said CEO Sunanda Dhar.
Here’s how the table looks like ahead of Thursday’s fixtures involving the four teams still with a shot.
Here’s a look at all the scenarios that could decide who takes the trophy home:
Position: 1; Played: 17; Points: 32
It should have been much more easier for the Punjab team but their late slips could end up being so very costly. But the events of Monday (when EB drew their penultimate game) have at least ensured that the title is still in their hands. The table-toppers face struggling Churchill Brothers and a win will secure the title for them irrespective of other results.
A loss or draw could still see them through if the other three contenders falter, which brings us to the scenarios facing the remaining three clubs.
Position: 2; Played: 17; Points: 3
They have to beat East Bengal away to stand a chance of winning the title in their debut season. However, they will have to hope that Minerva don’t win against Churchill Brothers. A draw will not help their case even if Mohun Bagan and Minerva Punjab lose their games. Minerva won both their encounters against Neroca in the season and will clinch the title if the Manipur side end up with a draw, even if they don’t win their game.
Position: 3; Played: 17; Points: 30
They place Gokulam Kerala on the final day. A win is essential for them and could see them being crowned champions with 33 points, provided Minerva lose their game and Neroca end up with a loss or draw.
Position: 4; Played: 17; Points: 30.
They can hand coach Khalid Jamil his second consecutive I-League title only if they beat NEROCA FC in their final league game. However, they can clinch the title only if both Mohun Bagan and Minerva Punjab fail to register wins.
As pointed out on social media, there is, in fact, one scenario where three teams can end up with 33 points. If Minerva draw their game, Bagan defeat Gokulam and East Bengal beat Neroca - it will hand the title to Mohun Bagan, courtesy of their record against the other two teams.
In such a scenario, the cumulative points will be considered for each team against the other title contenders across four fixtures. Bagan in this case will be crowned champions with seven points (two wins over East Bengal and a draw against Minerva). Minerva will be on five points (Win and draw against Bagan, and a draw against East Bengal). East Bengal has four points (Win and draw against Minerva).