I-League: Exciting clash in prospect as Neroca host Churchill (Preview)
Imphal : Two-time champions Churchill Brothers FC find themselves yet again in title contention as they take on Neroca FC at Khuman Lampak stadium here on Saturday.
The game promises to be an exciting one as the Goan giants Churchill find themselves in the second position after seven games with 13 points while Neroca are in fourth with 11 after playing the same number of games.
Although there is little to choose between the sides on their day as far as their 12th Hero I-League campaign is concerned, Churchill have had the better campaign definitely having remained unbeaten with three wins and having scored 14 goals thus far.
The home side, on the other hand, have won the same number of games but have been beaten twice in close encounters. They have also scored just nine and conceded six, the same as their Saturday visitors.
Churchill's Willis Deon Plaza has stood apart with seven strikes so far including a hat-trick and many of his finishes have been top drawer. Gambian Dawda Cessay and winger Israil Gurung have also performed outstandingly for the Goans and when on song the side looks unbeatable.
Their Romanian coach Petra Gigiu has also handled his resources admirably and needs to be commended for getting the best out of resources which were available to Indian football for many seasons.
Speaking before the game, Gigiu stated: "I want to win all games, not only against Neroca. It's tough. They have some good players, we have seen the matches. Neroca is playing good football, especially the Indian players. Their goalkeeper and their striker Subhash are really good. It will be a difficult game for us."
He also ruled top defender Hussein Eldor of Libya and scorer in the previous game Anthony Wolfe of Trinidad out of Saturday's game due to injury. He also brushed aside talk of the second position in the table saying the table can change in two days and playing good football was his priority.
The home team has been bolstered in the last two games with the return of dangerous Japanese winger Katsumi Yusa post injury and have looked a different side going forward since then.
They have won three of the last four, losing to league leaders Chennai in the other game and will be a handful at home under their Spanish coach Manuel Fraile who is also beginning to settle down with his side in the campaign. One of his key moves has been getting Subhash Singh back into the picture over the last two games.
The confidence reflected in the pre-game presser where Manuel among other things said: "To be honest, we are preparing pretty good. I believe in my players. It's true that they are playing very good. You'll see a tough match. The most important thing is to focus on my team rather than the opponents. Cessay, Costa, Plaza all are very good. But, if we keep the momentum well, we can get the desired result."