I-League: Churchill Brothers gears up for Arrows challenge, Real Kashmir takes on TRAU

Churchill Brothers will face Indian Arrows in its opening game of the 2020-21 I-League, while Real Kashmir FC will square off against Tiddim Road Athletic Union.

Indian Arrows (in pic) had finished 11th in the I-League last year, while Churchill Brothers ended the previous season in the eighth position.   -  AIFF Media

Two-time champion Churchill Brothers SC faces a tricky opponent in a youthful Indian Arrows when it opens its campaign in the I-League in Kolkata on Sunday.

Churchill Brothers is eyeing its third trophy in the coming season and head coach Fernando Varela, who was in the Gokulam Kerala FC dugout last season, stressed on the importance of making a winning start.

"It's important to start well because it gives us confidence right at the start and helps us prepare for the second game. But we have to focus against Indian Arrows and be wary because they are young players who are always up for a fight," Varela said.

"We will try to show our attacking style but we also have to be very careful if we lose the ball. The players who are not involved directly in the attack will have to try and recover the ball immediately," he added.

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Key to the team's efforts will be 29-year-old Keenan Almeida, who is making a return to the playing field following a forced absence due to injury.

"Football is not just a profession, it’s a passion, and I’m really excited to be playing again. I took the opportunity to join Churchill Brothers due to it being my home state and me having played for the team before," Almeida claimed.

Indian Arrows, the developmental team of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), is made up of the brightest young stars in the country.

"We are a young team and that’s a big weapon," head coach Venkatesh Shanmugam said when asked about his team’s strengths.

- Title challengers Real Kashmir FC begin I-League campaign against TRAU -

With a historic IFA Shield triumph in December boosting its confidence, Real Kashmir FC begins its quest for I-League silverware with a match against Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) in Kolkata on Sunday.

Real Kashmir clinched its maiden major trophy by lifting the IFA Shield after beating George Telegraph SC 2-1 in the summit clash last December, though the 127-year-old tournament was held without some of the country's top sides.

Real Kashmir FC (in pic) had finished fourth in the 2019-20 I-League season, while TRAU ended the previous edition in the sixth position.   -  AIFF Media

RKFC head coach David Robertson said the success in the IFA Shield has given his players added motivation to do well in the I-League.

"We were fortunate to get some competitive games in the IFA Shield before we play in the I-League. It is important to win every game. If you start the season on a winning note, it gives you a lot of confidence in the later stages," Robertson said.

"We have got a mix of experience and young players and everyone is ready and raring to go. We know the season will be challenging but we are ready for it," he added.

Real Kashmir's new recruit and prolific forward Aser Pierrick Dipanda Dicka said, "We are hopeful of a win tomorrow. TRAU are a good team and it will be a good match against them. We have worked a lot in training and are confident of a win." For TRAU, a good season in the I-League means finishing in the top half of the table.

Head coach Nandakumar Singh added, "Tomorrow is a tough challenge for us as Real Kashmir have a very good team. We know that they are dangerous in attack and we will do our best to get a good result."

"We have worked hard over the last couple of days and we are ready to go. Our aim for the Hero I-League is to finish in the top half of the table. We will take one match at a time as we go along in the season," he claimed.