Fourth-placed Gokulam Kerala FC will aim to snap the winning run of Manipuri side Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC as they go head-to-head in a key I-League clash in Kozhikode on Sunday.
High-flyers TRAU could not have asked for a better debut season, enjoying a four-match winning streak since the Imphal derby against Neroca FC. Since their defeat to East Bengal in the second week of December last year, they are also in the midst of a six-game unbeaten run.
Gokulam, on the other hand, have been blowing hot and cold, winning half of their eight games so far but also losing three in the process.
Speaking ahead of the game, Gokulam’s Spanish coach Santiago Varela refused to accept that his side was too dependent on the heroics of Trinidadian captain Marcus Joseph.
“We have always shown to play in a way that all players are important in our game,” he added.
“TRAU are a balanced team with good individuals and intensity. The plan is always to be the protagonists, control the game and be offensive. We will go in search of three points from the start.”
Marcus, in fact, along with Ugandan Henry Kisekka have accounted for nine of Gokulam’s 12 goals so far and the duo will have to keep that up if the hosts are to stop TRAU.
For the visitors, it was captain Princewill Emeka of Nigeria who shared his views before the game and he sounded confident, saying: “It is going to be tough but we remain positive. It all boils down to the 90 minutes on the pitch. Neither the records nor the past form will play for us. We have players who can take care of the likes of Marcus and Henry.”
Besides Gokulam’s foreign duo, the likes of Falguni Singh and Premjit Singh for TRAU have also impressed with their skills.
Churchill seek improvement
Churchill Brothers FC will seek an improved showing when they take on Neroca FC in the I-League in Margao on Saturday after a 1-0 defeat against Gokulam in their previous outing.
The Goans seem to be in a spot of bother, particularly in defence with Radanfah Abu Bakr being ruled out owing to the red card in the last match.
The Red Machines, though, will be happy with the return of Gambian midfielder Dawda Ceesay whose pairing with Khalif Alhassan in the middle will be one to reckon with.
Churchill are in middle of the table having bagged 10 points from seven games.
Speaking before the match Churchill coach Bernardo Tavares said, “The team is upset with the last few results. We played well in moments rather than throughout, which can’t win you a match. So we ended up on the losing side. We want to play consistent football and ensure that we win against Neroca.”
Neroca FC are just behind their opponents in the table with eight points from nine games. The Orange army showed resilience against Punjab after a long time but eventually, Dicka’s individual brilliance took the game away from them. But, their performance would certainly give them lots of confidence.
The biggest ray of hope for the team is the striker from Mali, Boubacar Siaka Diarra, who has scored four goals from nine matches. He will be looking to continue his good form.
Coach Gift Raikhan said, “We are really not happy that we lost the last match. The team played a really good game. We dominated play for the most part of the game and even scored our two goals before Punjab could do so.”
“It is football and we will have to again plan, recreate and re-strategize. We have to look at the Churchill match as an opportunity and though they have very good players we will fight for every ball.”