I-League : The Big Picture So Far
THE SMALL PICTURE
At the end of 8 rounds, East Bengal continues to lead the table at 20 points. Hot on their heels are their arch rivals with 17 points off 7 games. Theoretically, both teams will be on equal footing, if Mohun Bagan manages to beat Bengaluru FC on their postponed game.
Both teams remain undefeated and have conceded equal nuMohun Baganer of goals (3). East Bengal scored 5 more than Bagan [17 as compared to 12] and hence has a superior goal difference. We are arriving at the business end of the 1st leg and there is very little that separates the teams.
Their performance of 2.5 and 2.43 points per game is way ahead of historical i-League average of 2.04 points per game (last 5 editions). Eventual winner of last 5 editions had an average Goal Difference Per Match (GDPM) of 0.93 – in contrast, the leaders are running at 1.75 and 1.28; thus far. Fair and square, both teams were dominant over last 40 days; and are performing much ahead of historical championship-winning pace.
Under such circumstance, it is quite logical that neither will go gung-ho in their head-to-head clash. Safety first was destined to be the mantra; which resulted in a less than pristine game and a goalless draw. Neither side wanted to come empty handed from this match.
A peek at East Bengal reserve bench will give a clear indication – there was only one attacking option substitute (Haokip); with Abinash as the U-22 option. All the remaining were defensive players; flair and flaMohun Baganoyance was left back in the locker room.
THE BIG PICTURE
Saving aside the Kolkata derby, where historically home and away meant little, Bagan played two away games (Chennai and DSK). In comparison, East Bengal played three (DSK, Churchill and Minerva). 2nd leg will see both teams playing more in road, away from Kolkata.
A fixture in the hills of North East (Shillong and Aizawl) and visit to Bengaluru waits. Both leaders are expected to come down in PPM and GDPM in coming days. I will still maintain that the critical 18 points of the league remains head-to-head clash between BENGALURU FC, MOHUN BAGAN and EAST BENGAL and test in the North East hills. BENGALURU FC are 0 off 3, MOHUN BAGAN is 1 off 3 and EAST BENGAL is 4 off 6 in this front.
By 04th of March, EAST BENGAL will be done playing 15 points, BENGALURU FC will be done playing 9 points and MOHUN BAGAN will be done playing 6 points. If EAST BENGAL still manages to lead on 04/Mar, their claim will be very legitimate.