Gokulam Kerala will take on Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) in a virtual I-League final with both sides aiming for their first title at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.
After 14 rounds, three teams – Gokulam Kerala, TRAU and Churchill Brothers – are in contention for the trophy.
All three teams have 26 points each and if they end with the same tally of points, the head-to-head results will decide the title winner.
I-League (Playoff round) standings
Final day fixtures
Gokulam Kerala vs TRAU
Churchill Brothers vs RoundGlass Punjab FC
Who needs what?
Gokulam Kerala: The equation is simple for Gokulam Kerala. They just need to beat TRAU and secure their first I-League title as the Malabrians lead second-placed Churchill Brothers on head-to-head record.
Gokulam can also secure the championship with a draw against TRAU if Churchill lose their game to Punjab FC in a simultaneous last round match to be played at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.
Churchill Brothers: Churchill Brothers not only need a victory but are dependent on the result of the Gokulam Kerala vs TRAU match to be played simultaneously at another venue.
Churchill are at a disadvantage against Gokulam head-to-head and they trail TRAU on overall goal difference.
So, the most realistic equation for Churchill lifting the trophy is to beat Punjab FC and pray that the other game between Gokulam and TRAU ends in a tie.
TRAU FC: TRAU face a similar equation if they are to lift their maiden I-League trophy. If they beat Gokulam, they claim the trophy even if Churchill win against Punjab FC in the other game.
The Imphal-based side drew both its games against Churchill Brothers, but have a superior overall goal difference which would hand them the title.
The coaches’ word
Gokulam may still be champions if they fail to win but that’s not a possibility that their coach Vincenzo Annese wants to rely on.
“This is a final for us, and we need to win this game. We are too excited, we cannot relax. We have just one thing on our mind – to win this game,” Annese said.
“All our hard work, strengths, training sessions, formation have led us here. We need to focus completely on the game and keep preparing ourselves continuously.”
He said though his side had beaten TRAU seven games ago, Saturday’s match will be a totally different one.
TRAU on the other hand are hoping to spring one last surprise this season that would see them bring the I-League title to Imphal.
“With the talent we have, we would surprise many in the tournament. Our aim was to be in top-six. Being in title race is a bonus,” TRAU head coach Nandakumar said.
“After many positive results, I have immense confidence in my team. I cannot predict the result, but I am sure my players will give their 100% for the I-League title. Whatever the result, I will be a very happy man,” he added.
At one stage, it seemed like two-time champions Churchill Brothers were running away with the title. However, inconsistent performances in the championship stage have pegged them back.
“We are conscious of what we need to do to win the I-League. Our goal is to beat Punjab. We will hope for a draw in the other fixture,” Churchill head coach Fernando Varela said.
“Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I believe it is a good season. For me, we are the best team in the league. We have played well, grown together as a team, played attacking football. I am really proud of the team. We have shown that we are a great team.”
Punjab FC are not in contention for the title but they have their own ambition to finish the season on a high by beating the Red Machines.
“We are looking to finish the season well by defeating Churchill,” Punjab FC head coach Curtis Fleming said.
With PTI inputs
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