Winless in their last two matches, Gokulam Kerala would fancy their chances when they host a struggling defending champions Chennai City FC in an I-League clash in Kozhikode on Thursday.

After beginning the season with two consecutive wins, Gokulam Kerala suffered a 1-2 defeat (against Mohun Bagan) and a 1-1 draw (against Aizawl FC) in the next two games to be at fifth spot in the standings with seven points.

Gokulam Kerala would be disappointed that they could not make the most of one-man advantage against Aizawl FC in their last match at home. It will be interesting to see how Gokulam fare against the Coimbatore-based reigning champions who have been struggling for form.

Reflecting on his side’s previous match, Gokulam head coach Fernando Varela said, “Aizawl did a great defensive job, we tried anyway but their goalkeeper stood out throughout the game. These are things that happen in football and you have to accept them.

“The important thing that we always maintained our competitive and offensive spirit trying to win with good football.”

Talking about Chennai City, he said, “Chennai are the league champions. When you get a championship you deserve respect, we never look at the names of the players but the ability to generate good tactical quality and Chennai City surely have it.”

Chennai City, on the other hand, have not had much to boast of this season. Stricken with injuries and being marred by the loss of their marquee striker Pedro Manzi, the defending champions are faced with an uphill task.

Chennai have come into Thursday’s match after a demoralising 1-2 defeat to Real Kashmir in Srinagar, the second loss of the season – the first one against Punjab FC. They have won just one match this season and are at seventh spot with five points.

They conceded two first-half goals against Real Kashmir but came out with a much-improved display in the second session.

Commenting on the loss of Manzi, Chennai City head coach Akbar Nawas said, “Our Management is looking into it and we will make a decision in time to come if a replacement is needed.”

Speaking about Thursday’s match, he said, “They are really a good team and I am sure they seem to be one of the favourites this season. It will be a tough and competitive game for us.

Mohun Bagan hosts Indian Arrrows

In what promises to be a thrilling match of football, Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan will host All India Football Federation’s developmental side Indian Arrows at the Kalyani Municipality Stadium later on Thursday.

With three wins on the trot, Mohun Bagan have turned their fortunes around after a mellow start to the season which comprised of a draw at Aizawl and a 2-4 loss at home to Churchill Brothers.

Their performance in Srinagar, however, where Kibu Vicuna’s men emerged comfortable 2-0 winners against Real Kashmir served as a true testament to their title-challenging credentials.

Mohun Bagan have also been reinvigorated by the presence of Fran Gonzales at the heart of their midfield, as the Spaniard leads the I-League goal scoring charts as well as in terms of cumulative goals and assists. His movement, both on and off the ball, has allowed compatriot Joseba Beitia with more space going forward, to exhibit his flair, as was evident in the last match against Kashmir.

Speaking ahead of the match, Kibu Vicuna, Head Coach, Mohun Bagan said, “Fran is an important player for us. His role in the team is very essential. However, the most important player in the team is the team itself. Every player is important in my squad.”

Reflecting on their opponents, he added, “Arrows are a very competitive team. A young squad with hunger and talented players. If we want to get the three points, we will need to show more desire and fight.”

The Arrows, on the other hand, have enjoyed a decent spell going into 2020, when they shocked Churchill Brothers for their first win of the season in a thoroughly impressive display, which they followed up with a 1-1 draw against NEROCA.

Shanmugam Venkatesh, Head Coach, Indian Arrows said, “The game of football is all about hard work and belief. What you have to understand is that most of these boys in this Arrows batch have only played at the junior level before. While they all are quality, playing against senior teams require an amount of experience.

“They have now started to grasp what it takes to play at the senior level, and the results have started to follow. They now have the belief that they can do it against the senior players as well. That’s what has changed.

On their Thursday opponents, he further added, “Mohun Bagan has always been a strong team in the Hero I-League. I myself have had a strong connection with the club as well, from my playing days. Kibu (Vicuna) is doing a great job with the team, and they have played some good football recently. We have studied their game and made our plans accordingly. Let’s see how the game pans out.”