With the I-League reaching its business end, fourth-placed Quess East Bengal take on fifth-placed Neroca FC at their home in Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Thursday, in a crucial return leg fixture.
Quess East Bengal had emerged run-away winners in the first leg played over three months back, courtesy a double strike by Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda, but much water has flowed under the bridge since then.
While Quess East Bengal have bolstered their squad even more since then, bringing in players like young Spaniard Jaime Colado and Toni Dovale, Neroca, who lost Japanese talisman Katsumi Yusa to injury mid-way through that game, have him back at his best.
They have also roped in ‘Bhutanese Ronaldo’ Chencho Gyeltshen and he could be the trump card in the game tomorrow for the Manipur side.
Both teams are coming off morale-boosting victories and are among a chasing pack of four with six rounds left and Chennai City at the top of the points table. The thing going for the home side lately is that under Spanish coach Alejandro Garcia, the team has begun to play percentage, professional football, with each player executing his given role to the best of his abilities.
Speaking to the media before the big game, Garcia said, “They have good skills and tricks and they will try to win the match. But for us, we need to start good with fresh legs and try to win the match. It’s an important game and can be the turning point of our championship. It is a new match to continue the fight for the title, and in the last two matches, we will need to see if we need to win two matches or one. Focusing on each match and trying to tackle one after the other.”
Neroca also has a Spanish coach in Manuel Fraile and he has also done well to keep his side in the title race despite some injury setbacks in the middle part of the campaign.
He said on the match-day eve, “Both the teams are here to fight for the championship. We play every match for the three points. This match is the most important match for this title. The team is focused. We are a good team and all the players are giving their best and practising hard. East Bengal is a good team and they have good attacking players. With Katsumi performing and Chencho’s skills, we are hoping to win the match and win three points.”
There will be a lot of flair and youth on display at the VYBK on Thursday given the likes of Jobby Justin, the league’s highest Indian goal scorer with eight goals, Jamie Colado and Chencho likely to give their all in this crucial game.