Neroca FC would look to climb to the top of I-League standings with a win against a resurgent Churchill Brothers when the two sides take on each other in a crucial match here tomorrow. Neroca striker Felix Chidi's first-half spot-kick separated the two sides when they met in the first leg in Goa last month. Since then, Neroca have beaten Gokulam Kerala 1-0 before playing out a goalless stalemate against Aizawl FC at home. Tomorrow's match against Churchill at Khuman Lampak Stadium will be Neroca's third consecutive game at home and will be a perfect chance for Gift Raikhan and his men to put pressure on leaders Minerva Punjab FC who lost to East Bengal 0-1 today. With the I-League reaching the business end, Minerva (29 from 14 matches), Neroca (28 from 15 matches) and East Bengal (26 from 14 matches) have been left as the title contenders and every match has now become crucial. "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, on the other hand, 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 tomorrow's 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 has 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 0-1. Were expecting a tough match tomorrow. We have come fully prepared and hoping to get something out of this match tomorrow," said 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, Fernandes will be hopeful of another upset win to send the I-League title race wide open.
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