Minerva Punjab, a relatively unknown club, one which was tipped to finish mid-table, had a brilliant start to the campaign. First, they stopped Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan from registering a win at their fortress, which they followed up by winning against NEROCA, Indian Arrows (home and away), and Chennai City FC. After a minor blip caused by the defeat to defending champions Aizawl FC, Minerva Punjab again came back on track.
They defeated Gokulam Kerala FC, Mohun Bagan, Shillong Lajong and NEROCA again, drawing against another Kolkata giants in East Bengal. Minerva Punjab were firmly placed at the top of the table, rarely relinquishing the spot. Their Bhutani forward, Chencho Gyeltshen was leading from the front. The 21 year old youngster was their star performer, scoring 7 goals in total this season.
Midfielder Kassim Aidara and Souvik Das were bossing the middle of the park, but a rotating defensive line meant that Punjab were not the most compact at the back. This was visible in their blip in the back end of the campaign, which included defeats against Defeats against bottom half teams like Churchill Brothers, Gokulam Kerala FC and Chennai City FC have dented their title charge, but they are still top of the league and they still have the best chance to win the league.
Minerva Punjab - 32 points in 17 games.
NEROCA - 32 points in 17 games.
East Bengal - 29 points in 16 games.
Minerva Punjab take on Churchill Brothers on the 8th of March, with the game starting at the same time with the East Bengal vs NEROCA FC clash. If Punjab can recapture their early season form and support Chencho going forward, the Punjabis could win the title. Churchill Brothers, who are fighting relegation, will try to do their best to defy the odds which saw them as early season favourites to face the drop, and climb above Coimbatore based Chennai City FC to stay in the I-League.
With talks of integrating the I-League and ISL into one unified Football League which can be played throughout the year, It will be a big game for Churchill Brothers, who wouldn’t want to miss out on the money that will accompany this merger. Minerva Punjab are clear favourites to win the title, and they rightly deserve to win the title. If they can arrest their downward slide and shore up their leaky defence, they will surely end the campaign with the title, going into the Indian Super Cup.