Minerva faces daunting task against giant-killer Kerala

A win against Kerala will propel the host to the top of the table.

Gokulam Kerala players train ahead of Tuesday's fixture.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

After suffering a tiring defeat at home to Kingfisher East Bengal, Minerva Punjab is looking to get back to winning ways to get closer to the holy grail of Indian Football, the Hero I-League silverware when it takes on seventh-placed Gokulam FC at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula tomorrow (February 20).

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Meanwhile, the Kerala-outfit is in a blazing form after beating both Kolkata powerhouses in successive fixtures. It humbled Mohun Bagan 2-1 in Kolkata and then dented Red & Golds' title hopes by the same margin in Kozhikode. Gokulam’s red-hot form can be seen from the fact that it has collected a total of 12 points in its last 5 matches.

Minerva Punjab Head Coach Wangkhem Khogen Singh was asked about his team’s performance against East Bengal where they lost a tightly fought contest by one goal.

“It was a good game indeed. We fought but unluckily we lost the match. The upcoming match against Gokulam is very important and we have already convinced our boys how important this match is for the I-League title. If we take 3 points in this match then we are on top."

"The boys need to understand this and they will give 100% in the match. In this league, the lower team or upper team doesn’t make any difference. Now we are in a tight situation. The title is close to our hands. But still, we need to work to get it,” he added.

Khogen Singh added he wants to make some changes in his squad to ensure a favourable result as the tactical decision to play Gagandeep as a left back against East Bengal didn’t yield favourable results.

“We think the guy who played against us on our left side was strong and speedy too. We thought Bali can take him on since he is good in marking the players. We want to change one or two players from the last game we played but it’s not finalized."

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Home team’s centre back Sukhdev is very positive before the upcoming match and said, “Our chances are good. We have played fewer matches than both East Bengal and NEROCA. We are also playing our next match at home.”

Meanwhile, Gokulam Kerala FC boss Bino George expressed that playing in the top flight league and rubbing shoulders with country's premier clubs provides his boys with much-needed experience which will prove to be worthwhile for future.

“As for my team, all our young boys are gathering huge experience from each game. Playing in Hero I-League will give them experience which they don’t have at the moment."

He also added that his boys are not under any sort of pressure and that's why they are playing a free-flowing football at this moment.

"Minerva Punjab and East Bengal are fighting for the championship. We have no pressure. We will fight and try to play a better game. That is only my aim. Minerva is a good side. Kerala badly needed an I-League for last 6 years and finally, we have one. Before the start of the season our target was mid-table finish so we are focusing on it”, he concluded.

The match is scheduled at 02:00 PM and it'll be broadcast live on Star Sports 2/2 HD and streamed live on Hotstar and Jio TV.