I-League 2017-18: Gift Raikhan cautious ahead of derby, Paulo Meneses eyes three points

Aizawl FC and NEROCA FC lock horns in the north-eastern derby on Saturday...

NEROCA FC head coach Gift Raikhan is unsure about getting three points when his side take on north-eastern rivals Aizawl FC at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium on Saturday.

“I cannot predict the result. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be a very interesting game. It has been a hectic journey as we travelled from Goa. We trained today. I cannot say if we will get three points or one point but I can only say that we will work hard to win."

"If I win tomorrow’s match, it is great for us obviously but it is very difficult to get a win from here. Aizawl FC are a very good team. I know most of the players in their team. We will try our best," said Raikhan.

When asked about the development of Indian football in Manipur and Mizoram, Raikhan opined, “10 years back, there were so many Manipuri players. After that Mizo players started coming up like Shylo Mama. Now there are so many Mizo players playing at the national level. Manipur has a lot of problems. When I came back from Pune to Manipur, I couldn’t train for 20 days. Now the situation has improved. The development is happening slowly. The people here love football. I think Manipur is the powerhouse and Mizoram are the power pack (sic).”

Aizawl coach Paulo Meneses refused to give importance to the 'derby' tag of the fixture and opined that his team always play for three points irrespective of who their opponents are. 

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“It is a derby I know. It is important to the players, the fans but I need to be realistic. It is about three points. Whether it is East Bengal or Minerva or Aizawl, the three points matter. We play as a team and we will fight for the three points. We are playing at home and so we need to take advantage and try to get three points. If we win 1-0 and I get three points, that's fine. I told my boys to respect the opposition. We cannot think that the opponent will be easy. It won’t be easy, it will be tough but we need to work as a team and get the three points,” said the Portuguese coach.

Meneses confirmed that David Lalrinmuana is still not fit to start and will be out of the derby match. “David is still not fit. I spoke to him before and after the training and then decided that it is better if he takes rest for now,” said the coach.

The defending champions are currently placed in the fifth position in the league table with 14 points from eight games while the visitors NEROCA are third with 18 points.