League leaders Minerva Punjab FC have come to Goa to face Churchill Brothers at the Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Friday (2nd February) in their Hero I-League encounter where both teams would be desperately fighting for vital points.
Table toppers Minerva come into the game following a bitter-sweet 2-2 draw against direct title-rivals Kingfisher East Bengal.
The Ludhiana-based side were in a winning position against East Bengal leading 2-1 until they conceded a late goal in the 89th minute.
Meanwhile, Churchill Brothers are still recovering from their 0-1 defeat against Neroca FC in a game where they threw the kitchen sink on Gift Raikhan’s men.
Raikhan said after the game that his team were lucky to walk away with all three points which helped them close the gap on Minerva.
“It was very hard to digest especially after the efforts put by my players. But as professionals, we have to recover from such setbacks,” Churchill Brothers coach Alfred Fernandes said today at the pre-match press conference.
On paper, Minerva looks to be the favourites going into the game. They lead second-placed Neroca by two points while having two games in hand. A win will see them opening up a five-point gap over Neroca and nine over East Bengal.
One of the reasons why they are in first place is down to having impressive and enviable results when it comes to the away games this season.
Astonishingly, they have won five of their seven away games this season while drawing one and losing one which came against defending champions Aizawl FC.
“We are getting maximum points from away games also. The boys are high in motivation and psychologically, they believe in themselves,” Minerva coach Khogen Singh said.
Having Chencho Gyeltshen on the top of his game will be a cause of concern for the Red Machines but Khogen Singh prefers to stress on the collective team effort.
“One player’s performance cannot change the whole team situation,” Khogen said while playing down Chencho’s influence.
The ever-impressive Bhutanese attacker has already notched up six goals this season along with registering four assists in the ongoing Hero I-League.
“Chencho deserves due credit for what Minerva are achieving. He is a player who definitely needs to be marked. We have special plans for him and there are also other ten players to be taken care of,” Fernandes said.
However, Churchill Brothers have shown that they are no pushovers, especially at home. Their 1-1 draw against East Bengal at the Tilak Maidan showed that they can give anyone a run for their money.
Left-back Denechandran Meetei has been a revelation and so is PM Britto. Goalkeeper James Kithan looks to be improving with each passing game.
“Tomorrow my boys will create something special,” Alfred suggested.
The match is scheduled at 05:30 PM and it’ll be telecast on Star Sports 2, 2 HD and will be streamed live on Hotstar and Jio TV.