I-League 2019-20: Gokulam Kerala begins its campaign at home to NEROCA

The last meeting between Gokulam Kerala and NEROCA resulted in a 1-0 win for the Kerala side, with a late-goal nicked in by Marcus Joseph.

Gokulam Kerala won the Durand Cup in the off-season.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Gokulam Kerala FC, the lone side from Kerala, will get its I-League campaign going against NEROCA FC at the EMS Corporation Stadium on Saturday.

After finishing seventh and tenth over the last two years, the Kerala side will be looking to get its season underway on a positive note by registering a win at home. GKFC has made several acquisitions in the run-up including the reappointment of Fernando Santiago Varela as its head coach. It has also roped in five players from NEROCA, including the likes of Sebastian Thangmuansang, Naocha Singh and Malemngamba Meitei. Apart from that, Ugandan forward Henry Kisekka has also returned to the club following a spell with Mohun Bagan last season.

Speaking ahead of the match, Santiago Varela said, “For us, it is a matter of pride to be able to represent our fans. It is our obligation to put on a good show for them and for them to enjoy watching the team play.”

Gokulam’s pre-season culminated with the club winning the Durand Cup — its first-ever silverware of note, and followed it up with a resilient run to the semifinals in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup in Bangladesh.

NEROCA, on the other hand, will be led by Gift Raikhan at the helm. They have made significant strides in the transfer market, having roped in veteran Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Devon Phillip and his compatriot, 22-year-old defender Taryk Sampson.

It will, however, be missing some key players from last season like Katsumi Yusa, Singham Subash Singh and Malengbam Meetei among others, but by and large, have the nucleus still intact and with its new exciting foreign signings like Malian Boubacar Diara upfront, can prove to be a handful for the host.

The last meeting between the two sides had resulted in a 1-0 win for the Kerala side, with a late-goal nicked in by Marcus Joseph.

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