After three wins on the trot, Neroca FC would start as favourites when they take on defending champions Minerva Punjab in the I-League on Sunday.
After a stuttering start, Neroca won their last three matches – two at home and one away – to occupy the third spot with 14 points from eight matches.
A win on Sunday will consolidate Neroca’s position at the top three and keep them in the hunt for the title as the I-League nears halfway stage.
Minerva, meanwhile, lost at home against Mohun Bagan in their previous game. The Punjab side are currently seventh with 12 points from nine games.
Neroca are bolstered after Japanese talisman Katsumi Yusa’s return from injury. Minerva’s Irish coach Paul Munster is yet to find a right combination of his players for the season.
Neroca’s Spanish coach Manuel Fraile has ensured that the experienced Singham Subhash Singh and Lalit Thapa are back in the mix. With the inspirational Yusa coming back, Nigerian striker Felix Chidi also seemed to have got back his goal scoring touch.
“We must keep the momentum. We need to be steady, too. Support of the fans have also played an important role. The important aspect is to look at the opponent also. From January, we will be playing more away matches. We will be playing with a tough team who are the champions. We are in a very good position now,” Fraile said.
Minerva have played about 24 players in their nine games so far and are yet to zero in on an ideal attacking partnership for William Opoku.
The Ghanaian has had to partner the likes of Manandeep, Sabeeth, Donatus Edafe, Alexandre Kouassi, Yu Kuboki, Nongdamba Naorem, Dilliram Sanyasi and Makan Winkle Chothe at various stages of their campaign so far unlike last year when Chencho and Bali Gagandeep were mostly by his side.
With six goals scored so far and two of those coming in a single match off the head of center-back Lancine Toure, it’s clear that none of those attacking combinations have worked for Munster so far.
“Our first few matches have been home games but this is an away game. We are expecting better performances and creation of more opportunities to score a goal. Preparation has been really tight as we look forward to the game. We have been looking towards the Neroca match for a positive result,” Munster said.