Churchill Brothers and Real Kashmir will fight for the third place, taking on Aizawl FC and Neroca FC respectively in two separate I-League matches beginning simultaneously in the hills of North East on Saturday.
While Neroca FC and debutants Real Kashmir FC will clash at Imphal’s Khuman Lampak stadium, hosts Aizawl FC faces Goan giants Churchill Brothers FC at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in an exciting battle for the third spot.
Churchill Brothers are placed third currently with 34 points and will be ending their league campaign on Saturday.
Kashmir, on the other hand, are a point behind in fourth, but with a re-scheduled game in hand against Minerva, will know that if they win on Saturday and Churchill do not, the third spot is secure.
It will certainly not be easy for the David Robertson-coached ‘Snow Leopards’, given Neroca are very strong at home, where they have lost only once in this campaign to East Bengal, that too in their very first game over four months back.
Even in the first round clash at the TRC ground in Srinagar, Neroca ran out 2-0 winners over Kashmir, courtesy a brace by their premiere Nigerian striker Felix Chidi, who has found the back of the net seven times this season.
Kashmir, who have not won in last three games, have been criss-crossing the country over the past 10 days and given the strength of their opponents, they are in for a lot of hard work to cement third-spot.
Churchill, on the other hand, will feel more confident if they can jog their memories back to the first-leg fixture between the two sides at the Tilak Maidan in Goa, where a rampant home side had overwhelmed Aizawl 4-1.
Under new coach Stanley Rozario, however, Aizawl are a transformed and inspired side.
They have picked up three wins in the last four matches and will be dangerous at home with the added incentive of finishing a spot above their current eighth position following a good result on Saturday.
Churchill will bank heavily on the league’s joint top scorer Willis Plaza. The Trinidadian has had a phenomenal season and his 20 goals have been a masterclass in clinical finishing after a tough season last time around.
Both coaches Rozario and Churchill’s Romanian coach Petra Gigiu did not ooze confidence at the pre-match presser.
While Gigiu was concerned about his players being tired after a gruelling season, the Aizawl coach too was worried about injuries and suspension to his players.
What will also please the Aizawl coach in particular, is the fact that in their previous two back-to-back wins, the team has scored seven goals and finally looked like gelling together as a team.
Certainly, Saturday promises an exciting day of I-League football.