Churchill Brothers have managed to turn around their season after picking up 15 points from their last six matches. They have already beaten Indian Arrows 2-0 in their last meeting and another win on Saturday would see the Goan side move up to fifth place on the table.
Coach Alfred Fernandes is happy with the current performance of his team but believes that his side has still room for improvement in the attacking third.
"The only area where we can improve is our scoring. We are creating a lot of chances but are not being able to convert them. Sometimes we have been on the wrong side of refereeing as well. In the last match, the score could have been 3-0. If we get those goals then the players, as well as the bench, can relax a bit more because leading by 1-0 is never safe," said Fernandes while taking a slight dig at the poor quality of refereeing in I-League.
He did not hold back while praising his next opponents and stressed that their key to success against much stronger sides is their 'fearlessness'.
"All coaches have technology at their command. They have a good coach who is showing them the weaknesses of the opponents. They are doing the homework pretty well and the last match also they fought until the end. They are fearless and it is this characteristic that defines them.
"Indian Arrows are a very talented bunch of footballers, the cream players of future of Indian football. They are inexperienced, so at the fag end of matches they might tend to relax a bit but they are playing very good football and I am expecting a very tough match tomorrow. Against East Bengal also, they could have got a point at least," expressed Fernandes.
The Goan coach also believes that since the Arrows side has no worries of getting relegated it also helps them to play attacking and fearless football.
"The relegation factor doesn't affect them. It is an added advantage. They always go for the three points and even if they get a point they are not adversely affected, which makes them more fearless," reasoned Fernandes.
The former youth development coach of Churchill Brothers also added that his target is to finish in the top-four and if possible move further up the table.
"For me, a realistic target is still the top four. Against NEROCA, we deserved to get full points. If we win our matches and the top teams drop points we can push for better standings," said Fernandes.
Indian Arrows coach Luis Norton de Matos accepted that Churchill will start as favourites but they are also determined to show their quality after they got beaten 2-0 in the first leg. He praised the defensive organisation of his team and made his displeasure known with the way East Bengal celebrated their late winner.
"All the teams have had to struggle to score against us. We have been organized defensively as we have conceded only twice from set-pieces. I am happy with the players. last game was incredible as we had the opportunity to score in the 93rd minute but we couldn't and on the 94th minute we conceded and we lost. When East Bengal, one of the strongest team in I-League, scored the goal in the last minute they behaved as if they won the Champions League."
"The team have shown the mentality that they can win with strength. But tomorrow, Churchill will start as favourites. They have been doing well recently. But we will try to do better and show our quality," said Matos.
The Portuguese coach made it clear that he wants more competitive playing time and against respectable opponents, as the teams in India in the same age-group are leagues behind them in quality.
"They have improved a lot since the world cup. They are playing intelligent football which is important. We have to create a balance so that we don't concede at the back. Three games in World Cup, Three games in AFC and 14 games in I-League is not enough. The European teams play much more since they are 13 years of age. Last week we played against Vasco Da Gama and we won 6-0. Against other Indian teams of our age, we have beaten them comprehensively. So what we need to do is to play against Real Madrid and PSG's junior sides," argued Matos.
Aniket Jadhav who accompanied his coach said that this team has become like a family.
"The team is like a family and I am staying with the team for the last three years so this team gives me the same feelings as that of family. I have decided to make my career in football so I am toiling hard over here and I don't think about college and college fun," said Jadhav.