The first game on Sunday, 8th January sees newbies Chennai City and Minerva Punjab FC make their debuts in the I-League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. This, in fact, will be the first time that the capital state of Tamil Nadu will be hosting a top flight I-League match since 2004.
Setting the scene:
The two teams are who are relatively unknown in the Indian domestic football circuit will look to shock the more established teams in the competition. The hosts who were playing in the senior division of the Chennai Football Association were granted a direct spot in India's leading football competition this year.
Coached by Indian Robin Charles Raja, Chennai have had just 20 days to put together a squad for the I-League. Raja though is confident that he has a well balanced team and is banking on skipper D. Ravanan, Karanjit Singh and foreign recruits Marcos Tank and Charles to lead from the front.
Their opponents Minerva were promoted to the first division after finishing second behind champions Dempo in the 2nd division of the I-League. The reason that they got to this stage simply due to Dempo pulling out of the competition, will give them more reason to prove why they deserve to be part of India's most elite football league.
The Punjab based team have made some shrewd signings in the form of Nigerian Loveday Eyinnaya and Joel Yinka Sunday, with the majority of the squad consisting of junior national players and some from their I-League second division team.
Coach Surinder Singh who will manage at the top level for the first time in his career believes that being an unknown quantity will work in their favour as teams will not know what to expect from them on the pitch.
Team News and Injury Updates:
Chennai City - The team from the Southern part of India have no injury worries and come into this game will a full strength squad.
Minerva Punjab FC - Minerva too will have their full complement of players to choose from in the first game.
With two unfamiliar teams on the pitch, the match could either be an exciting encounter or a dull draw. A 1-1 draw seems to be the most likely of results.