Imphal, February 13: Neroca have the chance to climb to the top of the Hero I-League standings if they secure three points against a resurgent Churchill Brothers side when the two teams meet at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium on Wednesday (February 14).
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 at home.
The match against Churchill will be Neroca's third consecutive league match at home and will be the perfect chance for Gift Raikhan and his men to put immense pressure on Minerva Punjab who have one game in hand after suffering a 0-1 loss to Kingfisher East Bengal on Tuesday (February 13).
"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.
"We always target three points. When they travelled to Goa they came home with three points. We have to take our chances and try to get three points. The home teams always come tough on us."
Despite a shock defeat against Indian Arrows in their last game which saw Abhijit Sarkar score a late second-half brace, Fernandes will be hopeful of another huge upset to blow the Hero I-League title race wide open.
Match starts at 2:00pm IST
Live on Star Sports 2/ 2 HD
Streamed live on Hotstar/Jio TV
Source: AIFF Media