The top two teams in the I-League are up against each other in a crucial match on Saturday in Imphal.
Table-toppers Minerva Punjab will take to the field in I-League after a fortnight. Their last game was against Shillong Lajong which they won 1-0. Interestingly, NEROCA too played their last match against Lajong and it ended their nine-match unbeaten streak.
The Manipuri outfit have tasted defeat just twice in the league this season with the first being against Minerva.
Speaking of their opponents Minerva Punjab, NEROCA boss Gift Raikhan said, “We know Minerva Punjab. We played our first match against them and we lost. We scored first but they scored two. We remember the match and accordingly will approach tomorrow’s (Saturday) game.”
Raikhan does not want his side to be daunted by playing a top side like Minerva. He said, “We should not take tomorrow’s match lightly also it should not be treated as a very difficult game also. It’s a football match after all. Last match (Shillong Lajong) was not our day. Tomorrow, we will try our best.”
On asked if playing on home soil will work in his team’s favour, Raikhan opined, “Compared to our last match, I don’t think we have an advantage at home. If we play properly, then surely the fans will support us and that will motivate us to play well.”
The coach confirmed that they will miss the service of goalkeeper and skipper Lalit Thapa who is yet to recover from an injury. “Lalit Thapa still needs to recover from his injury. He will need another two or three days to recover fully. His treatment is going on. His rehabilitation is going on,” said Raikhan.
Minerva Punjab coach Khogen Singh remained calm and composed and mentioned that the match against NEROCA can be a turning point of the season.
He said, “Tomorrow’s match can be a turning point in the title race so we are prepared. NEROCA are a good team. They are high on tempo but we are hoping to get three points from here.”