Odds favour Mohun Bagan against Bengaluru FC in I-League decider

Bengaluru: Defending champions Bengaluru FC face their biggest test yet when they take on leaders Mohun Bagan in a must-win and high-stakes game of the Hero I-League here on Sunday.

Only a win will help Bengaluru to keep the title while Mohun Bagan, who enjoy a two-point advantage (38 to 36), require just a draw in the concluding game of the league to wrest the trophy.

Coach Ashley Westwood has been a proponent of “fearless football” and his team needs to do just that against Mohun Bagan who won 4-1 when the two last met in Kolkata in February.

Further, on Sunday, history will be favouring Mohun Bagan who drew 1-1 and goalless on the two previous visits to Bengaluru. Thus, the Blues will have to play at their best on the morrow to snatch three points that will help them emerge champions for a second time.

For Blues to win outright, much will depend on the ability of their players to recover from a hectic schedule that included a trip to Hong Kong for an AFC Cup game earlier in the week while Mohun Bagan had the luxury of a week’s break.

At one stage of the league, Mohun Bagan seemed to have the title sewn up, but a couple of defeats weighed them down even as Bengaluru surged ahead before surviving a tough game against Salgaocar Sunday in Goa when they were lucky to draw 1-1 to keep themselves in the hunt.

Thus, with the trophy at stake, composure and character, as much as tactics, will influence the outcome with Mohun Bagan looking distinctly more confident if only because a draw would suffice.

The hosts need to keep a sharp eye on visiting strikers Yusa Katsumi and Sony Norde, who have been in tremendous form this season with 18 goals. Haitian Norde was instrumental in Mohun Bagan’s back-to-back wins over Sporting Clube de Goa and Royal Wahingdoh that helped the Kolkata outfit to open up a two-point lead over Bengaluru.

The onus will be on the Bengaluru deep defence where John Johnson and Curtis Osano have enjoyed a good season, though neither looked the part during the 4-1 drubbing in Kolkata. The duo will have to be on its toes to block the Mohun Bagan advances.

The Blues have been largely depended on their younger players like Shankar Sampingiraj, Vineeth, Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Thoi Singh whose individual and collective performances have been one of the highlights of the season with the experienced skipper Sunil Chhetri and Sean Rooney along with Robin Singh providing the inspiration.

Thus, everything points to a mouth-watering contest Sunday though the odds definitely favour Mohun Bagan since Bengaluru FC will have to do all the running if they hope to keep the trophy.

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