I-League: In-form Neroca braces for Arrows’ challenge

With 11 points from six games, Neroca FC is placed third and has a great opportunity to leapfrog Minerva Punjab FC and trail leader Kingfisher East Bengal (17 points) by three points - with a game in hand.

Debutant Neroca FC will be aiming to extend its winning run to six consecutive matches when it hosts a young Indian Arrows on Friday.   -  I-League

Debutant Neroca FC will be aiming to extend its winning run to six consecutive matches when it hosts a young Indian Arrows in the third home game in the I-League here on Friday.

With 11 points from six games, the Manipur-based side is placed third and has a great opportunity to leapfrog Minerva Punjab FC and trail leader Kingfisher East Bengal (17 points) by three points - with a game in hand.

Coached by Gift Raikhan, the side has also managed to hold Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and Kingfisher East Bengal to draws.

The recent signing of Serbian forward Nedo Turkovic to partner Felix Chidi has provided teeth to its attack and with the presence of experienced Indians in Gouramangi Singh and Singam Subash Singh, the men in orange look a force to reckon with.

‘The plan should be successful on the field’

Raikhan, who has surprised many with his astute tactics, kept his cards close to his chest on the eve of the match.

“We have a plan for tomorrow. We have a different strategy. As a coach, I don’t talk about my strategy before the game. We planned together and all my players have understood my plan. Now, we have to prove it and the plan should be successful on the field,” he said.

Skipper Lalit Thapa added:“It is not an easy game for us, they are a young team. It will be hard for us, we cannot give space to them. If we give space, they will hit us hard.”

‘Manipur a region of football talent’

As for the Indian Arrows, it travels to the northeastern state after losing 0-2 to East Bengal at home couple of days back.

READ: I-League: East Bengal breezes past lacklustre Arrows

It plays its seventh match in a month’s time and will be looking to reverse its fortunes, which sees it placed seventh on the table with as many points.

“I am very excited to be in Manipur for the first time.

"When I came to coach the Indian U-17 side first, I was touched by a lot of the players from Manipur. There is a big passion in this region for football.

“I now know a little bit more about football in India. There are players from Manipur in all I-League teams. It is a region of football talent. I am glad to coach so many players of Manipur,” said head-coach Luis Norton de Matos at the pre-match press conference.

He added:“The Arrows boys are also present in heart of Neroca FC supporters, I am sure. We have never been the favourites in any game. In the I-League, all teams depend on foreigners. We are a bit different. After each game, we gain experience.”

Meanwhile, Arrows captain Amarjit Kiyam will return to the line-up after serving a one-game suspension.

Apart from that:“There will be 5-6 (Manipur-born) on the field for (Indian Arrows) sure,” said Matos.