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I-League: Minerva Punjab aim to consolidate lead against East Bengal (Preview)


IANS Kolkata
Surprise league leaders Minerva Punjab FC will look to continue their dream run and consolidate their position at the top of the table when they take on third-placed city giants East Bengal in an I-League encounter at the Barasat Stadium here on Tuesday.
Minerva, four points clear of second-placed Neroca FC with 25 points from 10 matches, are unbeaten in their last four matches.
They beat Neroca in a top-of-the-table clash in their previous game, with in-form Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen scoring the winner.
Since losing to Aizawl on the road last year in December, Minerva have won away matches against Gokulam Kerala FC, Mohun Bagan, Shillong Lajong and Neroca, all away spurring talks of yet another improbable league triumph after Aizawl won it last season.
Chencho, dubbed as the Bhutanese Lionel Messi, has been in inspiring form since the start of their campaign, scoring five goals in ten matches so far.
Off the field, Minerva have had their distractions with their owner Ranjit Bajaj complaining of several of their players having been approached via social media to fix matches.
"Another low for Indian football with another five of my players being asked to fix matches in the I-League, taking the numbers to seven," Bajaj had tweeted after two of his players were made offers earlier this month.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF), the game's governing body in the country, are looking into the matter.
East Bengal meanwhile, will be hungry to get back to winning ways after facing a harrowing defeat 0-2 at the hands of Mohun Bagan in their last outing.
East Bengal were very poor in that game as Mohun Bagan steamrolled them completely and could have won by atleast half a dozen goals.
Currently in third position with 19 points from 11 matches, the Red and Golds are running out of time in their bid to win the first I-League title, and have to win on Tuesday to start the push.
The hosts will be without the services of key Syrian midielder Mahmoud Al Amna who picked up a knock in the last game and had to be replaced early. In his place, Bazie Armand is likely to start.
New recruit Dudu Omagbemi had little impact in the last game and head coach Jamil would hope the Nigerian, in his second stint with the club, comes good against Minerva. East Bengal will also hope new signing from Mohun Bagan, Liberian Ansumana Kromah delivers the goods in his first start for the club.
Kromah replaced Trinidadian striker Willis Plaza after the latter was released owing to his string of underwhelming performances. The hosts will also need to shore up their defence which looked out of sorts against Mohun Bagan. Experienced campaigner Arnab Mondal had a forgettable day.

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First Published: Jan 29 2018 | 5:56 PM IST

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