I-League: Relegation-threatened Gokulam hosts NEROCA

Gokulam is fighting to stave off relegation, currently placed 10th among 11 Hero I-League teams with 14 points from 18 games.

Marcus Joseph has five goals in as many matches for Gokulam Kerala.   -  K. Ragesh

Neroca FC will look to consolidate its fifth position in the Hero I-league standings when it takes on host Gokulam Kerala FC at the EMS Corporation stadium here on Sunday.

The home team is fighting to stave off relegation, currently placed 10th among 11 teams with 14 points from 18 games. It needs to win both its remaining encounters in the 11-team league to stay afloat.

READ | East Bengal takes on Minerva with focus on staying in title race

Gokulam Kerala has lost seven matches in its last 12.

Neroca, on the other hand, despite going down narrowly in its previous match against Minerva Punjab, has shown enough capabilities throughout to confirm the fifth position in a highly competitive league.

Manuele Fraile has built together a fighting unit who have delivered well in all key game parameters.

In the first-leg between the two sides, a Baoringdao Bodo goal for Gokulam had cancelled out a Eduardo strike for Neroca and both sides had shared the spoils in Imphal.

The only thing going for Sunday’s home side is its new Trinidadian recruit Marcus Joseph, who has scored in each game since joining. He has five to his credit already and his kind of form could spell trouble for Neroca.

Gift Raikhan, Gokulam Kerala technical director, said, “Neroca is a good team and have strong players. I hope we should not make any mistake in defending tomorrow and we should score. I pray to God that everything should be fine for us tomorrow.”

“Our players will remember whatever mistakes they have done in the last match and approach in a way that there will be a balance in attacking and defending and win with a good result.”

Neroca, however, has one of the strongest attack and defence lines of the league. The side is the league’s fourth highest scorers with 24 goals and has conceded not more than 21 goals until now.

Key players like Katsumi Yusa, Felix Chidi and Singham Subash Singh are also in good form and this quality in attack might just prove to be the difference between the two sides on Sunday.

Also, Neroca is well rested with its last match played 10 days ago. Gokulam will play its second game in four days that too after a 3-1 drubbing at home to Aizawl FC.

Neroca coach Manuel Fraile said, ”To be honest, we want to finish the I-League on a high so that my players enjoy the match and of course, the first thing is to take the three points. For me, it’s more important for my team is enjoy the game.”

With both sides having clear objectives, Sunday’s clash promises to be an entertaining one.