Vasco: Giant-slayers Real Kashmir FC are in with a chance to go top of the points table if they secure a win over second-placed Churchill Brothers in their I-League clash here on Thursday.
Both teams shared the spoils in the first-leg match at the TRC stadium in Srinagar, with the game ending in a 0-0 stalemate.
Churchill and Kashmir are tied on 28 points after 14 matches but the home team is ahead on the back of a better goal difference.
Debutants Real Kashmir have proven to be quite dogged defensively and have not tasted defeat in the last couple of months owing to clever strategic switches in the team brought about by their Scottish coach David Robertson.
They will, however, miss the services of Ivorian Gnohere Krizo, who scored the winner in the last game against table-toppers Chennai and has been an important influence in their attack.
On being asked about Krizo, Robertson said, "Krizo has been suspended so it can affect the game."
"In our last match, we overpowered Chennai but tomorrow's game will be difficult. We are focusing on one game at a time. Churchill is a good team to play against. The next six matches will be difficult as all the top teams are good," he added.
That second win over Chennai by Kashmir has thrown the title race wide open. Kashmir have conceded only seven goals so far, with eight clean sheets.
They are the best defensive side in the league and they have proven that again and again.
Churchill Brothers, on the other hand, have impressed one and all with their relentless attacking displays and as a result, it is set up for a cracker at the Tilak Maidan.
Churchill, aspiring for a third Hero I-League triumph, are at their best this season, having been beaten only twice. They have won eight matches and drawn four.
More importantly, Churchill, under the guidance of Romanian coach Petre Gigiu, have demonstrated some attractive football and apart from Plaza's sublime goal-scoring form, Gambian playmaker Dawda Cessay has also been in excellent touch this season.
Churchill have scored 26 goals this season and are the second highest goal-scoring team after Chennai City, who lead with 31 goals.
According to Churchill Brothers coach Petre Gigiu, "Every game is very important because if we lose any game right now, we will be out of the title race. We need to be in the fight and our next match is going to be a tough match....