Kolkata: The 2021-22 I-league season will conclude with a virtual final clash between contenders Gokulam Kerala FC and Mohammedan SC here on Saturday.
Mohammedan are searching for their maiden title, while Gokulam Kerala are aiming to become the first team in the I-League era to defend their crown.
The match will take place at the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan and will kick off at 7 pm.
Gokulam Kerala had a golden chance to wrap up the title on Tuesday, needing just a draw against Sreenidi Deccan but the Malabarians suffered their first loss of the season, going down 1-3.
"We lost our focus in the last match. We tried to come back stronger in the second half but it wasn't possible," said head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese.
Before that, Mohammedan maintained the pressure on Gokulam with a 2-0 win over Rajasthan United, which cut the gap to three points. The Black and White Brigade would clinch the title on the head-to-head tie-breaker if they win on Saturday, while a draw will be enough for the Malabarians.
Mohammedan coach Andrey Chernyshov always believed that they stood a chance, even though Gokulam were a long way ahead with matches running out.
"I told my players that this is football. Anybody can win or lose in a minute. We kept playing well and had good results. Now we have the chance to win the title and our fans in the city are excited about it.
"It's good for Indian football. Two good teams will fight for the title," Chernyshov said.
Gokulam Kerala will not only be up against a resurgent Mohammedan side, but also against the home crowd.
Coach Annese knows that going for a draw is not an option.
"We've scored 42 goals so far. We play an attacking style and always go for the win. If we play to defend, with so many Mohammedan fans against us, we'll only invite pressure. We need to play for the win to kill their hopes," said the Italian.
Chernyshov is hoping to make the most of the Black and White Brigade support.
"Of course it will be an advantage for us to have a big crowd behind us tomorrow. It's not an easy situation for Gokulam."
"We've been waiting for this match since July last year. It's going to be a big game and I hope the fans will enjoy good football tomorrow," Chernyshov added.