KATHMANDU, Feb 1: As the season reaches the business end after the hustle at the top, only three teams look to be in the contention for the title as just a point separates them at the top in the Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League.
Tribhuvan Army Club is roaring forward with five wins in the last seven games where it has not lost a match and has not conceded a goal in the last three games, while Machhindra Club and Manang Marshyangdi Club are awaiting a slip up to leapfrog at the top of the table with the 10th round on the horizon.
Army has not lost a game since its second match 1-0 loss to Manang and has managed to win six matches out of the nine it has played so far. With the tricky challenge of Nepal Police Club next, it will be a real test for Army as it still has Machhindra to face as the two games will certainly define Army's quest for the title.
The battle between the two departmental teams will be a little bizarre this time as Army is competing for the title, while Police stays behind a New Road Team, which is facing the wrath of the fans for finishing bottom last season but is still ahead of Police this season. The contrast between the teams has seen a gap of six points and the game could turn into Army’s favor with the team having the least goals conceded with only three.
However, Police has been better than last season as the team which won only five games last term, has already won four this time around. It has been good defensively as well bettering its goals conceding record of 12 to concede only six this season, but in four fewer games. However, it has been short of scoring goals as its nine goals in nine league matches is unlikely to better its record of 19 goals in 13 matches last season.
However, Machhindra and Manang face relatively easier opponents than Army as the former will play against relegation battler Armed Police Force (APF) Club, which is lingering in the second last place in the table.
Likewise, Manang faces a Chyasal side, which has only two wins so far in the season and has conceded 11 goals already.
Both Machhindra and Manang will look to take advantage of a slip up should Army fail to win against Police in the game where the expectations of a win will be high for both sides, while a loss will certainly be the talk of the season.
The week's other games see Three Star Club play against Saraswati Youth Club as the former looks to get back to winning ways after a frustrating 2-0 loss to Machhindra. Three Star has so far failed to register wins against all three title contenders as it lost to Machhindra and Army 2-0 each, while played a 2-2 draw with Manang.
NRT will take on Friends Club as the fourth-placed team has caused shocks with wins over Police and APF, and has held Army to a 0-0 draw, becoming only the second team this season not to let Army score a goal. However, despite being the contender in the game against Friends, it should be aware of the attacking prowess and also could go only a point behind NRT, should it win.
Sankata faces a Himalayan side, which is also one of the teams battling to avoid relegation, and is three points off the bottom. If it loses, Jawalakhel, which has the same points as Sankata (12), could go three points clear with a win against Brigade Boys Club. Brigade, however, could go four points ahead of Himalayan Sherpa and seven ahead of Saraswati, with a win.