I-League: Chennai City FC faces NEROCA FC in final push for title

With Chennai City FC closing in on a possible maiden I-League title triumph, it would hope not to drop its guard when it takes on NEROCA FC in an away game.

(From left) NEROCA FC player Sebastian Thangmuansang, Chennai City FC coach Akbar Nawas, NEROCA coach Manuel Retamero and Chennai City player Alexander Romario at the pre-match press conference. Photo: Amitabha Das Sharma

Having started its eastern India sojourn with a confident win over the country’s colts (Indian Arrows) in its previous contest, Chennai City FC will be looking to continue its good form when it meets host NEROCA FC here at the Khuman Lampak Stadium on Monday.

The visitor is perched on top of the current league standing (with 33 points from 15 matches) and a win here looks necessary for its efforts to carry forward the advantage and keep its position intact.

With at least three sides closing on it in the title race, Chennai City can ill afford to rest on its oars with barely four rounds remaining. Head coach Akbar Nawas insisted on the need for a win while alerting the side to be more creative and not lose its shape in the rush for the title. “I cannot tell my players that you must go out and win the title. It is surely a must that they must play the way we want to play and move towards the ultimate goal game by game,” Nawas said on the eve of the clash.

Improvement sought

With the snowfall in Srinagar forcing the postponement the two matches in the fixture, it now becomes more important for Chennai City to remain more focused about its objective. Its closest challenger East Bengal now has the benefit of playing its ‘away’ fixture against Real Kashmir at a later date. “We have to greatly improve our game compared to what we played against Indian Arrows. We were not creating enough chances in our previous match which we cannot do against a side like NEROCA which very fast in its attack,” he said.

It remains crucial how the Spaniards — Roberto Eslava, Sandro Rodriguez, Nestor Gordillo and Pedro Manzi — at the spine of the team inspire their Indian colleagues like Gaurav Bora, Edwin Vanspaul, Alexander Romario to pull out another good performance.

'Very big opponent'

The NEROCA FC camp is buoyant with the arrival of the Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen on loan from Bengaluru FC. The host spoke of regaining the composure, which it had lost a bit, losing three of the last five matches it played. “We face a very big opponent in Chennai City but we will try to make the most of the home advantage and pick up three points,” head coach Manuel Retamero said.

Chennai City FC's 2-0 win over Indian Arrows was its 10th in 15 matches. Photo: AIFF Media


Chencho scored his debut for NEROCA and Retamero hoped the team will regroup in time to get itself back on track. “Chencho’s skills are good for the style of football that we play. He has pace and his finishing ability is good. I hope he will do enough to add to the strength of the side,” Retamero added.

The host’s defence has been its biggest weakness. It was evident in the way it squandered a goal’s lead while letting in two late goals against East Bengal, and when it had escaped with a narrow (3-2) win against Indian Arrows in the previous match.

The coach hoped that his central defence — having Liberian Kallon Kiatamba and Brazilian Eduardo Ferreira — will do a better job against Chennai City.

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