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I-League: Neroca face tough Churchill challenge (Preview)

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IANS Vasco (Goa)
Surprise title-aspirants Neroca FC will be eager to recover from a slump in form when they take on an in-form Churchill Brothers in an I-League encounter here on Tuesday.
The top division debutants from Manipur have suffered back-to-back defeats against Shillong Lajong and league leaders Minerva Punjab FC, with both losses coming at their home ground.
Churchill on the other hand have won three games in a row and look like a formidable unit in front of their home fans.
"The pressure will be on both teams. Because when you go out on the field, the pressure is on both teams to get the points," Churchill coach Alfred Fernandes said in the pre-match press conference here on Monday.
If one counts the last four matches, Churchill Brothers' three-game winning streak is only bettered by Minerva who have won all their four games.
Churchill are quickly climbing up the league ladder and a win on Tuesday will see them leapfrog Indian Arrows, Gokulam Kerala FC and Chennai City FC to the sixth place.
"They will come out all guns blazing against us and they will bring something extra tomorrow (Tuesday). We have to be on guard and we are prepared for that," Alfred said while hinting that he could field the same team that secured three straight victories.
As for the Manipuri side, the other teams are slowly catching up with them. A victory would not only help them to keep pace with Minerva Punjab, it will also give some breathing space against their direct rivals like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC.
"Yes, it is a must-win game. There is pressure on us because we don't want to lose the game. If we lose three matches continuously then it is not good for the future. But we need to go on. We want to win and we will work hard for three points or maybe one point. Churchill are a good team," Neroca FC coach Gift Raikhan said.
When Shillong Lajong ended their nine-match unbeaten run, it looked as if they put the handbrakes on Raikhan's men and the Manipuris failed to get going against Minerva as well.
"We lost because of bad luck I can say. Against Minerva, we conceded within two minutes. After that, we dominated the game. We got chances but we could not score. It was a bad game for us. Because of that, Tuesday's match may be very strong for us," Raikhan said.
Neroca midfielder Saran Singh echoed the sentiment of his coach.
"We cannot win all the games. Even big teams lose. That is football. Now we have to come back stronger," Singh said.
But Churchill Brothers are brimming with confidence and their forward Koffi Mechec feels they are as good as anybody.
"We are confident that we can beat anybody in the league," a confident Mechec said.
--IANS
ajb/nir

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First Published: Jan 29 2018 | 11:28 PM IST

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