Aircraftmen take on formidable Churchill

Bottom-placed HASC have monumental task at hand

Match one of the three-game twist will be against title contenders Churchill Brothers at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Sunday.

Not too long ago, HASC were in the comforts of mid-table -- at one point as high as eighth. But six winless matches -- five of them losses -- have seen them propping up the table for the first time at the worst possible period, the business end of the season.

Their final three matches are against title contenders. With six teams out of the 14 in the relegation dogfight and only six points separating Viva Kerala , who are 9th, from HASC, who are last, the battle is expected to go right down to the wire. The Bangalore side has 20 points from 23 matches, with Air India, ONGC and JCT all within three points. Viva Kerala and Indian Arrows have 26 points from 25 and 24 matches respectively.

With four teams fighting for the title and six battling the drop in the fourteen-team league, there are no more easy matches and Churchill coach Drago Mamic was quick to point that out: “We understand that they are fighting to stay in the league. But we are fighting for the title. So we will be going for the win, because we need to win every single match to have a chance of winning the championship.”

Churchill lie second with 44 points from 23 matches, two behind leaders Salgaocar, who have played a game less. Dempo and East Bengal also have 44 points, but from just 21 matches.

On the bright side, HASC have no injury problems and will welcome back Xavier Vijay Kumar, who returns from suspension. The HASC backline has leaked far too many goals over the past few games and now faces the daunting task of trying to thwart the I-League’s leading striker, Odafa Onyeka Okolie.

Odafa, who leads the goal-scoring charts with 20 goals from just 12 matches, is expected to partner the impressive Bineesh Balan up front with New Zealand’s Kayne Vincent -- who is returning from a long injury layoff -- starting on the bench.

“Odafa is a great striker. But we need to realise that Churchill is not just about Odafa. They have other really good players too, who can just as easily hurt us,” HASC captain J Murali observed.

“We just need to concentrate on our game. I’m confident if we play as well as we are capable of, we can come away with three points.

“We are looking at this match as a final, because we know nothing but a win will do.”

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