Srinagar, Jan 27 (PTI) Real Kashmir FC face the biggest test of their debut season so far when they take on leaders Chennai City FC in a 14th round I-League clash here Monday in a match which will have a huge impact on both sides in their title hunt.
Chennai are leading the I-League table on 30 points from 13 matches while Real Kashmir are in third with 25 from 13 games. Churchill Brothers are in second spot on 28 points from 14 matches.
Monday’s match at the TRC ground is more crucial for Real Kashmir than the Chennai team as any slip-up on the part of the home side will lead to an eight-point gap from the visiting side with just six matches to come after this.
But, the David Robertson-coached team will start in an advantageous position in their home turf with the temperature expected to dip below 5 degree Celsius even at 2pm start.
There is biting cold in Srinagar and the field of play has snow over it for the past couple of days.
Real Kashmir will also start confidently as they have beaten Chennai in their own backyard in the first leg in Coimbatore. That was Chennai’s only loss of the season in 13 games so far.
Chennai’s Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas, who has shepherded the side brilliantly through the season, will be hoping his team acclimatises quickly after a long two-day travel and at the very least, go back without being beaten.
“I think its ok. The altitude at Aizawl is higher, so it was tougher there. The support staff and the players on the bench will suffer from cold, not the players who are running,” Nawas said at the match-eve press conference.
“One thing about us is that we are not here to win the title. We have just come here to play one match that is scheduled tomorrow. Real Kashmir are very competitive. It will be a tough game for us. They have won a title (I-League second division) last year. They are competitive defensively.” Real Kashmir put it across the table-toppers in the first leg, courtesy a Koffi Tetteh strike late in the second half.
What helped Kashmir in that game against Chennai was their physicality and the clever way in which Scottish coach Robertson made his team use it to disrupt the rhythm of Chennai’s star Spanish midfielders and wingers.
However, Pedro Manzi, Chennai’s top scorer this season with 13 goals, missed that encounter due to injury and his return to the team as well as to sublime goal-scoring form will make Robertson wary on Monday.
Robertson, however, seemed upbeat in the pre-game conference, saying, “It’ll be a tough game. Chennai are a very tough opponent and they are the most consistent team. They might end up being the league champions.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game but we all are looking forward to it. We were away from home for a long time, around 45 days. So we all are happy coming back home. It’s the second game between us so everyone has a fair idea about the opponents. We have got to be the best to match up to them.” It is also a clash between the league’s best attack and best defence in a way.
Chennai have the best scoring record of the league with 31 goals to their name, while Kashmir have conceded a miserly seven with seven clean-sheets, by far the best defensive record of the league.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.