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I-League 2018-19 Title Race -- here's what East Bengal and Chennai City must do to win

IT HAPPENED AGAIN.

For the third season in a row, the I-League title race will be decided on the very last matchday, with two or more simultaneous matches taking place to decide who will become the Champions of India.

The top division league has spoiled the Indian football fan in recent years with jaw-dropping title races, with four of the last five seasons showcasing a fight at the top going down to the last day of the league.

9-3-2019, 5 pm onwards

On the last day of the 2014-15 season, Bengaluru FC hosted Mohun Bagan in a face-off for the crown; the Mariners stole the title from the Blues' hands with a spectacular last minute goal. 

In 2016-17, Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC were locked in a title race, and they faced off Chennai City and Shillong Lajong respectively in simultaneous final round matches. Aizawl FC earned the title with a hard fought draw. 

The last season saw things reach a whole new crazy level with four different clubs fighting for the title in three simultaneous matches on the last day of the league. In the end, Minerva Punjab FC came out on top.

This time, we have Chennai City (40 points from 19 matches) and East Bengal (39 points from 19 matches) headed for a photo finish for winning the crown of Champions of India and booking a place in the AFC Champions League qualifiers. While Chennai City will host Minerva Punjab FC in their last game of the league campaign, East Bengal will pay a visit to Gokulam Kerala FC for the same. Both matches will take place on the 9th of March, kicking off simultaneously at 5 pm.

Both clubs will go into the big day with a tangible chance to win, but there's no denying Chennai City FC have the upper hand. They are one point ahead of East Bengal, which means if they beat Minerva Punjab, they're champions, period. They won't have to look at the other match's result.

If they get held to a draw by Minerva Punjab, then East Bengal have a chance to win the league, but only if they beat Gokulam Kerala FC.

But if Chennai City lose and East Bengal get held to a draw, both clubs will finish their campaigns on 40 points; triggering a tiebreaker by their head-to-head record. Here, Chennai City will easily take the cake, because they have beaten East Bengal on both their encounters this season.

So, for East Bengal, the only way to become champions is to beat Gokulam Kerala FC, and hope for Chennai City to drop points against Minerva Punjab. Anything less than a win for East Bengal will ensure that the trophy will go to Chennai City.

Both Chennai City and East Bengal have carried out impressive league campaigns this season and they are undoubtedly the two best clubs in the top flight, and a photo finish conclusion to the title race between them is a delight to fans across the country.

While Chennai City are hoping to win their maiden top division league title, East Bengal have been previously crowned the Champions of India on three occasions: 2000-01, 2002-03 and 2003-04. After winning the league thrice in 4 seasons, the Red and Golds have entered a long drought in the national top division, and their vast fanbase has become increasingly impatient.

Last season, East Bengal were one of the four clubs who were hoping to win the title on the last day of the league, but ended up losing the race. And they are desperate not to let history repeat itself.

So will the 99 year old East Bengal break their long winless streak in the national league, or will Chennai City be the first club from Tamil Nadu to become the Champions of India? We'll have to wait till Saturday evening to find out.

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