Kolkata, Jan 11 (PTI) Playing at home and momentum favouring them, Mohun Bagan would have revenge in mind when they face an in-form NEROCA FC in their I-League clash at the Saltlake Stadium, here Saturday. Also Read - Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju Inaugurates Rowing Centre in Srinagar
It was less than a fortnight ago, Mohun Bagan suffered a 1-2 defeat against NEROCA in their away fixture before going down to Real Kashmir at home, leading to the exit of head coach Shankarlal Chakraborty as the team slipped to sixth place. Also Read - COVID-19 Travel Guidelines For Kashmir: Coronavirus Test Mandatory For Those Travelling by Road
Appointed at short notice, Khalid Jamil got off to a winning start as Mohun Bagan blanked defending champions Minerva Punjab 2-0 on Wednesday to keep their title hopes alive. Also Read - Kashmir to Kanyakumari: Indian Army Man to Run 4000 Km in 50 Days, Aims For Guinness World Record
NEROCA FC on the other hand are on a six-match unbeaten run and defeated Shillong Lajong 3-2 at home in the last round as the Imphal outfit are three points shy of leaders Chennai City.
Last year, in their debut season in the I-League, NEROCA FC finished runners-up. They have continued their rich form and are looking more dangerous.
The inclusion of Aryn Williams, Eduardo Ferreira and Katsumi Yusa in the team seems to have changed the mood of the camp as the side plays with more intent and confidence.
For Mohun Bagan, who suffered a defeat to East Bengal in the first leg, the clash against NEROCA will also be a prelude to their return derby clash January 27, as the Mariners will be desperate to maintain their winning run before the high-voltage clash.
The Mariners looked a rejuventated side under Jamil with Aser Dipanda Dicka regaining his shooting boots in his comeback match.
Their captain Sony Norde looked a livewire in the mid-field, creating opportunities as they completely dominated the defending champions.
“We have to carry on with the confidence from the last match. Everyone have to give 100 per cent. Have to make some changes as we have to play within two matches.
“We got the result we wanted in the last game. We have to do simple things and try to win the match,” Jamil said at the match-eve news conference.
The former I-League winning Aizawl coach however cautioned their defence against the attacking Imphal side.
“We have to be defensively strong. They are a good team. We have practiced set-pieces. Players know NEROCA are good in set-pieces. So we have to do well.
“NEROCA have good foreigners and Indian players. They play as a team. Eduardo and Katsumi are great players. I don’t think about result. We have to start the matches positively and try to get results,” Jamil said.
Spanish coach Manuel Retamero of NEROCA FC knows the importance of their clash against Mohun Bagan as a win will take them on par with the table toppers.
“It’s a big match for both teams especially for us. They are one of the biggest clubs in India. We are playing very well now, have improved since first game.
“We have to keep our momentum. They changed coach and now they are more powerful. It is a very hard and tough match tomorrow. I hope we give our best and get the desired result,” the 45-year-old said.
The former Aizawl FC tactician further said their their central defender Eduardo has come back strongly after recovering from injury. The Brazilian had scored the opening goal against Mohun Bagan in their 2-1 win in the first leg.
“Now he is playing like a 24-year-old. All the players are working hard. It’s not about the coach only but all the players in the squad,” he said.
As the business end nears, the I-League table is crammed with any of top six teams in a mathematical equation to win the title.
“It doesn’t matter when we play a team, now or later. This year the title race is very tough. Chennai are there, EB and MB are pressurising. Kashmir is there. We are fighting with big clubs. This season is very difficult,” he said.
Recalling his goal against Mohun Bagan, Eduardo said: “I was glad to score against big club like MB. Tomorrow we go again. I didn’t celebrate last game as I respect MB. But on the field we will give our best and try to win.”
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.