Super Cup: Blasters wary of 'fierce game' against Neroca

Kerala Blasters faces Neroca FC in the final round of 16 game of the ongoing Super Cup competition on Friday.

Kerala Blasters coach David James addresses the media ahead of Friday's Super Cup clash against Neroca FC.   -  AIFF Media

Kerala Blasters coach, David James, is expecting a 'fierce game' against Neroca FC, when the two teams clash in the final round of 16 game of the Super Cup on Friday.

"It's definitely going to be a fierce game against a side who finished second in the I-League. We have seen some terrific matches in the qualifiers and the round of 16. We are also expecting a same type of game tomorrow. But, we have come here to win and we'll try our level best to accomplish it," said James, on the eve of the match.

"We want to stay alive in the tournament and see how far we can proceed," he addeed.

James went on to talk about his experience coaching the Blasters. "Since 2014, when I came to India first, the level of quality of Indian players has risen. Competition in the ISL and the I-League has gone up. We saw yesterday the impact of the Indian players and frankly saying, I'm not surprised at all seeing this.

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"It's always great to get a chance of playing against an I-League team. It's a great opportunity for both teams to test each other," the 47-year-old added.

Rishi Dutt, one of the prodigies being nurtured by the Kerala outfit, shared his views as well. "I'm really proud of sharing the dressing room with legends like David James, Wes Brown and other maestros. I'm ready to take the opportunity and give my 100% on the field. I'm learning every moment and still a lot left for me to learn from them," he said.

Meanwhile, James gave full marks to the pitch and applauded the groundsmen. "The groundsmen deserve a huge applause for their job. It's a terrific pitch to play a game. I thank the All India Football Federation to give us an opportunity to test each other on such a fantastic pitch. It's just another testament to the growth of Indian football of late," he remarked.

Neroca coach Gift Raikhan conceded that his team is under pressure as other two teams from the Northeast – Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong FC – have progressed to the next round.

"Football from the Northeast is growing from strength to strength. Aizawl and Lajong have already qualified for the next round and we have to emulate them. We are not feeling the pressure being pitted against Kerala Blasters but the pressure of getting the ticket to the next round.

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"We will give our blood on the pitch to get the job done tomorrow. We are the only Manipuri club in the I-League and we have won four out of nine awards in our debut I-League season itself. We have enough potential and we are feeling the fire in our belly now," noted Raikhan.

He summed up his side's I-League journey and said it would be happy to leave Bhubaneswar with the Super Cup trophy.

"The league is a different project, you have 18 matches to gauge yourself. In a knock-out game, you have to plan shrewdly and execute it meticulously on the pitch to overcome your opponent. We went very close to the championship but eventually, finished in the second spot whereas or goal was to finish within top three. Now, we are looking forward with more seriousness and we are here to win the title," he said.

Skipper Lalit Thapa, who missed a few games in the I-League owing to a prolonged injury, spoke highly of the Blasters and mentioned that playing late in the evening will help them overcome Bhubaneswar's humid weather.

"They are a very good team. It matters little who's going to play tomorrow and who's not. We have to concentrate on our game to win tomorrow.

"The humidity and heat is a concern. But playing in the late evening will be favourable to us," said Thapa.

Raikhan said that at the end of the day, it's a team game and a collective effort is necessary, rather than individual brilliance. "We have Junior, Felix, Subash. We have Haitian international player Vorbe. They are masters of the game and they provide us with much-needed confidence. But, the game is 11v11 and we will have to play the game collectively to have the last laugh," concluded Raikhan.

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