Five-time I-League champions Dempo SC will be eyeing a return to the top division with a win against Minerva Academy in a winner takes all second division match here on Saturday.
Dempo have 20 points, two more than Minerva after nine matches and a draw would also be enough for promotion. They were relegated in the 2014-15 season.
They were earlier relegated from the National Football League (rechristened as I-League in 2006) in 1999-2000 but came back strongly next season to win the league five times, the most by any club in India.
Minerva, a Chandigarh-based club, are very much newcomers in the football echelons of the country. They topped the Western Conference stage of the second division league, ahead of Dempo in the points table.
They pulled above their weight in the final round too, getting the better of the likes of Mohammedan SC and others to have a chance at promotion.
“The journey so far has been a magnificent one. Right from the start, we were confident of ourselves and always played for a win. I am proud of the team that we have reached this far and are now on the brink of making history,” said owner and director Ranjit Bajaj of Minerva in a release.
Coach Surinder Singh rued the unavailability of star striker Kareem Omolaja for the crucial match.
“Yes, we will be missing Kareem Omolaja as he has been suspended for accumulating 2 yellow cards. It’s a great setback for us but we do have a good bench too and someone will step up to take the charge.”
Dempo will also be missing three of their key players. Holicharan Narzary and Vinit Rai have been called for the national team camp in Guwahati while Uttam Rai is injured.