Bhubaneswar, Apr 5 (PTI) Kerala Blasters will have their task cut out when they face NEROCA FC in the ongoing Hero Super Cup competition here tomorrow.

Blasters gaffer David James said he is expecting nothing short of a ‘fierce game’ against NEROCA.

“It’s definitely going to be a fierce game against a side who finished second in the I-League,” James said in the pre-match press conference today.

“We have seen some terrific matches in the qualifiers and the round of 16. We are also expecting a same type of game tomorrow. But, we have come here to win and we’ll try our level best to accomplish it.

“We want to stay alive in the tournament and see how far we can proceed,” he quipped.

James gave full marks to the pitch and applauded the groundsmen.

“The groundsmen deserve a huge applause for their job. It’s a terrific pitch to play a game. I thank the All India Football Federation to give us an opportunity to test each other on such a fantastic pitch. It’s just another testament to the growth of Indian football of late.” On the other hand, NEROCA FC coach Gift Raikhan mentioned that his team are feeling the heat now as other two teams from the Northeast (Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong FC) region have qualified to the next round.

“Football from the Northeast is growing from strength to strength. Aizawl FC and Lajong have already qualified for the next round and we have to emulate them. We are not feeling the pressure being pitted against Kerala Blasters but the pressure of getting the ticket to the next round,” Raikhan said.

“We will give our blood on the pitch to get the job done tomorrow. We are the only Manipuri club in the I-League and we have won four out of nine awards in our debut I-League season itself. We have enough potential and we are feeling the fire in our belly now.” Gift Raikhan summed up their I-League journey and exuded that they’ll be happy to leave Bhubaneswar with the laurel to wrap the season up on a high.

“The league is a different project, you have 18 matches to gauge yourself. In a knock-out game, you have to plan shrewdly and execute it meticulously on the pitch to overcome your opponent.

“We went very close to the championship but eventually, finished in the second spot whereas or goal was to finish within top three. Now, we are looking forward with more seriousness and we are here to win the title.” Skipper Lalit Thapa, who missed a few games in the I-League owing to a prolonged injury, spoke highly about their opponents.

“They are a very good team. It matters little who’s going to play tomorrow and who’s not. We have to concentrate on our game to win tomorrow,” Thapa said.

“The humidity and heat is a concern. But playing in the late evening will be favourable to us.” Gift Raikhan said a perfect team effort would be necessary to outdo their rivals.

“We have Junior, Felix, Subash. We have Haitian international player Vorbe. They are masters of the game and they provide us with much-needed confidence. But, the game is 11v11 and we will have to play the game collectively to have the last laugh”, Raikhan signed off.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.