Stakes will not be high when Mohammedan Sporting, fresh from their stunning 6-4 victory over Sreenidi Deccan, take on Rajasthan United in the I-League tie at Kishore Bharati Krirangan on Tuesday.
With only three matches left to be played by each team, both sides seem to have dodged the bullet of relegation. The Kolkata side has opened up an eight-point gap with the relegation zone with 23 points, while Rajasthan United are on 22 points. Winning the title or getting promoted to the Indian Super League has long gone out of the equation. However, these two teams have followed different trajectories since they last met in early January and finished 1-1.
Mohammedan have defeated many higher-placed teams like Gokulam Kerala and Sreenidi. They also fought hard against Real Kashmir in Srinagar – a fixture most teams find difficult to deal with. The loss to Aizawl was also a narrow one. The only team that outplayed them was current leaders RoundGlass Punjab FC.
Under Kibu Vicuna, Mohammedan Sporting looked like a team that was doing everything right but not getting the results. The change, under new coach Mehrajuddin Wadoo, has been dramatic. Everyone seemed to have the ability to convert every chance in the attacking third against Sreenidi. Maintaining that form will of course be a challenge.
Wadoo is aware of that and said at the pre-match press conference as quoted by an I-League press release, “Even when you win, you make mistakes, and you try to rectify them in practice sessions. We have done the same after the last game.”
On the other hand, Kundu’s boys went on a seven-match winless streak after beating Sreenidi in the game following the draw against Mohammedan Sporting on January 6. When they beat Sreenidi, it was expected that the performance graph could only go up. But the exact opposite happened.
Churchill Brothers pumped in five goals past the defence of Aidar Mambetaliev, Amritpal Singh and Hardik Bhatt. Rajasthan has struggled to maintain a clean sheet right through the season, and Abiola Dauda, Kean Lewis et al are in such good scoring form that Wadoo did not miss someone like Marcus Joseph even for a moment in the last match.
Rajasthan was finally able to win, when they defeated NEROCA FC by a solitary goal in the last match. But it was through a lucky deflection from a defender. They will have to be more creative in attack and even better in defence to hold the black-and-white brigade who are looking to end the season on a high.
Kundu made a perfect analysis of the situation on Monday, saying, “At the beginning of the season, both of us were title contenders but today one is in the eighth spot on the points table and the other is in ninth. But that’s the beauty of the game. A win could give both of us a better position on the table.”
Wadoo felt the two teams will be equally keen to win the tie. “Rajasthan are a very good team and are very close to us on the table. I think they will be as hungry for points as we are because we want to finish as high on the table as possible. They must be thinking the same,” he remarked.
The match will be telecast live on Eurosport, DD Sports and Discovery Plus OTT platform from 7pm. (ANI)