The Federation Cup, the country’s premier domestic club football tournament, may have lost its lustre with the inception of the I-league but, the clubs still reluctantly take a break from the I-league to compete in the prestigious tournament which is also the passage for the winner to the AFC Cup.

The last tournament to be played in a neutral venue before it changes to home and away format, the group stages of the 35th edition of the tournament will be played in Manjeri.

The football-crazy district of Malappuram, which has produced many great players, will host the group ‘B’ and ‘C’ matches at the newly constructed Malappuram District Sports Complex stadium in Payyanad.

It is the first major National-level football tournament to be hosted in this district and a rare opportunity for the fans.

Group ‘B’ — the tournament’s toughest and effectively the group of death — will be staged here. Group ‘B’ has the current I-league leader Bengaluru FC, the second placed Sporting Clube de Goa, defending champion Kingfisher East Bengal and Rangdajied FC in the fray.

Luck factor

If I-league form is any yardstick, then Bengaluru and Sporting Club should have been the obvious favourites for fighting it out for the lone semifinal spot from this group.

But, in a knockout tournament like this where luck may play a role, East Bengal with a considerable fan following in this part of the country will be more than a handful.

The marquee match between Bengaluru and Sporting Goa on Wednesday will kickoff the proceedings in group ‘B’.

The lightweight in the group, Rangdajied will be hoping to play spoilsport against its stronger rivals.

More In: Football | Sport