The 2020-21 season of the I-League kicks off with multiple clashes, including a much-awaited opener between debutants Sudeva Delhi FC and newly-promoted Mohammedan SC.
In the first day's other fixtures, defending champions Chennai City FC will take on Gokulam Kerala, while Aizawl FC face RoundGlass Punjab. While Sudeva Delhi FC is the first club from the national capital to play in the I-League, Mohammedan SC made it by winning the I-League Qualifier last October.
The 11 teams participating teams are - RoundGlass Punjab FC, Indian Arrows, Chennai City FC, TRAU FC, Churchill Brothers FC , Real Kashmir FC, Mohammedan SC, Gokulam Kerala FC, Aizawl FC, Sudeva Delhi FC and Neroca FC.
Speaking at the official pre-match press conference, head coach of Sudeva Delhi FC Chencho Dorji said, "We have a young team that has been working very hard. We keep our expectations very high and we would like to start our season with a win. It would be the perfect setting for our season ahead."
"In the last couple of months, we have sweated and trained a lot. I am hopeful of a good season ahead and realistically we are aiming to be placed in the top six teams of the I-League," he added.
Captain Ajay Rawat opined about the challenge that Mohammedan presents.
"Mohammedan SC are a tough side to face but we are confident in our abilities. I am focused on the match ahead and I know that there will be challenges," he said.
"As a striker, I want to score and want my team to win. I will give my cent per cent for the win."
Nothing less than a win would suffice for Mohammedan Sporting Club either. The legacy club is one of the few powerhouses of Indian football with a rich and vibrant history. That history would become even more illustrious with a I-League trophy, Mohammedan SC believes.
"We want to win all our matches, that is what we expect from ourselves and that is our target. Starting with a win would be very good for the morale of the players who have worked really hard," Head coach Jose Hevia said.
"We aim to play intensive football with and without the ball. We will always try to dominate the match and go for the win. Our main target is to win."
Mohammedan's new signing and Bangladesh national team captain Jamal Bhuyan is counting on the team's hunger to win in the upcoming league.
Meanwhile, both Gokulam and Chennai City FC would look to improve their performances from last season and aim to claim the silverware.
Gokulam striker Dennis Antwi, who has plied his trade in Sweden, the Netherlands and even Malaysia, said, "I am looking forward to playing in the I-League and we are ready to go. We want to start the season on a positive note and although tomorrow will be a tough challenge we are raring to go."
Chennai City FC are wary of the threat that Gokulam possess.
"Gokulam are a good team and traditionally Chennai City FC and Gokulam FC have played a lot of high-intensity matches. It is going to be a very interesting match. A positive result will give us a lot of boost in morale," head coach Satyasagara said.
Aiming to throw their hat into the title contention from the word go, RoundGlass Punjab FC were gearing up to fight for a win against Aizawl FC.
The challenge, however, will be immense as Aizawl FC have plans of their own to rewrite their league-winning days and start the season on a positive note.
Aizawl FC will look to forget their previous campaign, when they finished with just three wins from 15 matches, and hope to once again challenge for the title.
I-League 2020-21 season will be broadcast live exclusively on the 1Sports channel. The prize money for the top four teams will be as follows:
Champions – Rs. 1 Crore
Runners up – Rs. 60 Lakh
Third Place – Rs. 40 Lakh
Fourth Place – Rs. 25 Lakh.
(With inputs from PTI)