Neroca look to grab top spot with win
Imphal: Title contenders Neroca FC will look to provisionally climb to the top of the I-League standings when they take on a resurgent Churchill Brothers at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium here on Wednesday.
Felix Chidi's first-half spot-kick separated the sides when they met in the league in Goa on the penultimate day of January.
Since then, Neroca have edged out Gokulam Kerala 1-0 and fired blanks in a goalless stalemate against Aizawl FC at home, denting their chances in terms of winning the league. They will now have to make the most of Minerva Punjab's 0-1 loss to East Bengal. Minerva lead Neroca by a point. The match against Churchill will be Neroca's third consecutive league tie at home and will be the perfect chance for Gift Raikhan and his men to bounce back and keep breathing down Minerva's necks. Minerva lost 0-1 to East Bengal on Tuesday but have a game in hand.
"We need to work and be confident to get three points. There is no other option. We cannot lose three points. We have to go all out. This is the best opportunity we are getting for this season. Everybody knows that we need to work hard," said a hopeful Raikhan ahead of the crucial fixture.
Churchill Brothers have 16 points from 13 games so far and are seventh on the table but their recent form is a strong indication that Neroca will have to work hard to gain points from the fixture.
Alfred Fernandes' side have lost seven games so far this season but five of those defeats came before the squad was revamped in the January transfer window.
The Goa-based team has only lost two games since the turn of the year and have managed to knock points off Minerva Punjab. They will be looking to do exactly the same against yet another title challenger. "We have already played against them (Neroca) in Goa. We lost 1-0. We're expecting a tough match tomorrow. We have come fully prepared and hoping to get something out of this match tomorrow," said head coach of Churchill Brothers Alfred Fernandes.