NEROCA FC take on East Bengal in a I-League title deciding match on Thursday at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata.
The Manipuri side need to win this tie and then depend on the result of Minerva Punjab FC. Minerva need to drop points in order to send the title to Manipur for the first time in their history.
Ahead of the must-win encounter in Kolkata, NEROCA coach Gift Raikhan said that he was proud of his side for being in the title race till the very last day in their debut season. "We are a new club in I-League and we are still fighting for the championship. So I am very happy with my team’s performance. The people of Manipur are very excited and they want to enjoy this moment. I expect a very exciting game tomorrow," said Raikhan.
On asked if playing on home soil will be an advantage for East Bengal, Gift Raikhan opined, "I don’t think East Bengal have an advantage as it is their home match. I think it’s better to play an away match. For me, there is no difference. Of course, East Bengal will have little advantage due to the home support."
The match will played in a sultry weather in Kolkata at 3 PM IST. On asked if the heat will be a problem for his side, the coach said, "There will be no problem weather wise. Manipur and Kolkata weather is more or less the same."
NEROCA played their 17th match of the season on February 18th against Mohun Bagan and suffered a 2-3 defeat. On asked if such a long gap has been helpful for his side, Gift opined, "We had a long break. I think it was an advantage. Players got time to relax and enjoy the results of the other clubs. After losing to Mohun Bagan we almost lost hope of winning the title but after seeing the results of other teams, we are now back."