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I-League: Minerva face Chennai in crucial tie
Coimbatore, March 1: Chennai City FC and Minerva Punjab FC will both want nothing less than a win when they meet here on Friday in an I-League clash that will have an effect on both ends of the points table.
Minerva Punjab are at the top of the league table with 32 points from 16 games.
With two games left, the I-League title is theirs to lose as Neroca FC (31 points from 17 games), East Bengal (29 points from 16) and Mohun Bagan (27 points from 16) wait to pounce on any dropped points by the title favourites.
The position of their opponents in the standings has no bearing on how Minerva Punjab are preparing for the game, according to head coach Khogen Singh.
"We never underestimate the opponents. They had very good support at home in their last game. They are a good side. 90% of the football is about the mental strength. If you are mentally fit, you think 'I can do that'. We are strengthening the players mentally," he said.
As Chennai City prepare for their final league game, they face the daunting task of bringing the relentless Minerva Punjab side to a halt in their title race in order to better their own chances of escaping relegation.
"It is a challenge again for us. Tomorrow, it is our last match on our home ground. Only if we win, we can improve our reputation. We will go all out, regardless of the opponent. We have got nothing to lose," Chennai City head coach V. Soundararajan said.
Chennai City are in a spot of bother at the other end of the table. Since Gokulam Kerala and Indian Arrows are free of relegation worries, Churchill Brothers are the team they need to surpass.
Although superior head to head results give Chennai City an advantage, Soundararajan's boys must win their last game and hope that Churchill Brothers go winless in their remaining two fixtures.
A disastrous run of eight winless games was brought to an end by Chennai City as they won 3-1 against their struggling rivals Churchill Brothers a few weeks ago.
But East Bengal put Chennai to the sword and ran riot in a 1-7 thrashing in their last game to dent their confidence.
"Last match against East Bengal was a challenge for us. Tomorrow, it is a prestige issue. Minerva are in a better position than East Bengal," Soundararajan said.
"Initially we started well, After that, I don't know what happened to the team. It is a bad defeat for our team. The players also agreed with me."