KOLKATA: Mohammedan Sporting Club look to dent a blow in Churchill Brothers’ ambitions to secure a third Hero I-League title when they lock horns on Monday in a Championship Round clash.
The match is slated for a 7 PM kick-off at Kalyani Municipal Stadium and will be broadcast LIVE on 1 Sports with online streaming available on 1 Sports’ Facebook page.
The Black Panthers, with 17 points from 12 games, have an outside chance of winning the title but need to win all of their remaining matches to still be in the reckoning, while the Red Machines currently find themselves occupying the top spot on the log and will need to win against Mohammedan to strengthen their position.
“There is still a lot to play for. The team is still focused and everything is going very well. Players will go into the match with the right attitude. We know we have many supporters across the world and it is our duty to perform to our very best as always,” Mohammedan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty said ahead of the clash.
When the two teams faced each other during Round 1 the match ended in a barren draw in January. The Black Panthers looked convincing for patches, but couldn’t convert enough of their attacking chances into goals. However Mohammedan are a different outfit now, as Sankarlal Chakraborty’s charges have demonstrated their mental strength by bouncing back after a poor start to the campaign.
“Churchill Brothers are a good team with good qualities and a lot of experience and favorites to win the title. We respect them and we know that this will be a tough game and we are ready for it. They have to win and they do have more pressure but for us it is an opportunity to go out and try our best to win. We will go hard at them enforcing our own style of attacking flare,” coach Sankarlal added.
The Black Panthers have shown glimpses of their quality but inconsistency has let them down this season. Mohammedan though have struggled to keep clean sheets this season and will find it difficult to contain an Churchill Brothers side that has plenty of talented attackers. Going forward, Churchill Brothers will pin their hopes on Luka Majcen and Clayvin Zuniga like they have done for most of the campaign.
Majcen has been one of their most influential players in attack with eight goals and three assists to show for his efforts. Clayvin, meanwhile, has been equally effective and has notched up six goals as well as two assists. The attacking duo of Majcen and Clayvin will most likely be Churchill Brothers’ biggest threats against Mohammedan and will have to be marked tightly.
While Mohammedan are sweating about the availability of their captain and influential defender Eze Kingsley who was forced to leave the field in the match against Roundglass Punjab FC, the Black Panthers can draw some relief from the fact that Pedro Manzi had finally found his feet.
The Spanish striker didn’t quite have his tournament going until he announced himself with a brace in the final Round 1 game against Real Kashmir. He is one of the finest strikers in the league and one to hugely shoulder Mohammedan’s attacking burden.
Bangladesh national team skipper Jamal Bhuyan, who will be playing his last match for the Black Panthers tomorrow before leaving for national duty, delivered a heartfelt message to Mohammedan officials, players and supporters during the presser.
“It has been a great privilege and honour representing Mohammedan Sporting Club. I loved every day I spent here,” said Jamal. “Thanks to the Club officials, the coaches I have played under, the staff I have worked with, the team mates I have played alongside, and finally the fans that I have been lucky enough to have played for.”
Coach Sankarlal also sounded outright emotional and said: “Jamal has been an integral part of the team. He was one of the key members of the leadership group. He always ensured that the dressing room atmosphere was good. I wish Jamal all the very best with the Bangladesh national team. We will miss him. He will be in our hearts forever.”