Manipur’s Neroca FC, who ran a fairytale debut campaign last season, are all set to renew their love affair with the I-League as they get ready to host Kolkata giants East Bengal at the Khuman Lumpak stadium here on Saturday.
The game will be the second of the 12th I-League edition and both teams look equally balanced on paper, with both outfits having Spanish coaches locking horns for the initial bragging rights, as a fresh season beckons.
Neroca almost pulled off a sensational debut title win last season before finishing an honourable second, while East Bengal could only manage a fourth-place finish at the end of a nerve-wracking final day where four teams had a chance at the title before Minerva Punjab clinched the crown.
The home side, besides bringing in Spaniard Manuel Fraile, who helped Aizawl win the Mizoram Premier League three years ago, have also managed to retain the nucleus of the side from last season, while bolstering it with a few top foreign signings.
Prominent among them is the tireless Japanese winger Katsumi Yusa, who has gained immense popularity among the fans in India with his energetic displays.
Also, Brazilian Eduardo Ferreira, a rock solid defender who has played with distinction with both the Kolkata giants and who, like Katsumi, will be up against his former team on Saturday.
In attack, Neroca will feel fortunate to have Nigerian striker Felix Odili Chidi and winger Singham Subash Singh. The duo had 11 goals between them in the last edition.
Australian Aryn Williams has also been retained from last year and brings a lot of maturity in midfield.
Veteran custodian and captain Lalit Thapa should be a safe house guarding the Neroca goal, but Italian Mauro Boerchio’s presence in the goalkeeping quartet, someone who was with coach Fraile in Mongolia, suggests Thapa might face tough competition.
Coach Fraile seemed undaunted at the prospect of facing East Bengal, sounding positive at the pre-match press conference when asked about their opponent’s pre-season in Malaysia.
“We are a small club with a big heart. Every team has their own training methods. I am here to win every match and feel at the moment Neroca is the best team in the world,” he said.
Given their stature in Indian football, East Bengal’s desperation to win the tournament is not surprising. (IANS Input)
Where will the Neroca vs East Bengal match in the I-league 2018-19 season take place?
The match will take place at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode.
When will the Neroca vs East Bengal match in the I-league 2018-19 season take place?
The match will kick off at 2 PM IST on 27th October 2018.
Which channel will telecast Neroca vs East Bengal match in the I-league 2018-19 season in India?
Star sports network (Star sports 3)have the broadcasting rights for the I-league matches.
Where can I live stream the Neroca vs East Bengal match in the I-league 2018-19?
The match can be live streamed online on the Hotstar and Jio app.