Former champions Mohun Bagan host Manipuri side NEROCA FC in a crucial 12th I-League clash for both teams on Saturday, January 12 at Kolkata’s Saltlake Stadium. The game is scheduled for a 2pm IST kick-off.
NEROCA have 21 points from 11 games and Mohun Bagan have 18, having played a game more and both need to continue winning to put pressure on league leaders Chennai City FC who are sitting pretty with 24 points.
The home team got back to winning ways against champions Minerva Punjab FC at the same venue under new coach Khalid Jamil just five days back, and NEROCA have been improving with every game.
In the context, a mouth-watering contest is on the cards.
Speaking to the media on matchday eve, Khalid Jamil said, “We have to carry on the confidence from our last match win. There will be certain changes in the formation. The main theme for us is to play simple. NEROCA are good with set pieces and we are concentrating on that. They have good foreign and Indian players. Overall, the team is good and they play together. We are not looking at the results. The team will be working hard and try their best.”
Mohun Bagan have had an issue with the defence not measuring up and Khalid has shown in his first game that he had his own ideas on how the formation should be. He also preferred to play his premiere striker, Cameroonian Dipanda Dicka, as the lone man up front and laid emphasis on wing-play.
He also played senior custodian Shilton Paul in the Minerva Punjab FC game, preferring him over Sankar Roy, who played most games during the reign of erstwhile coach Sankarlal Chakraborty. It will be interesting to note what other changes he makes in Saturday’s game.
NEROCA, on the other hand, have been impressive under Spanish coach Manuel Fraile, although they began slowly.
Star wingers Katsumi Yusa and Singham Subhash Singh, in particular, have been churning out virtuoso performances game after game and Australian Aryn Williams’ vision has been a treat to watch.
Coach Fraile announced that he would be missing key Brazilian full-back Eduardo through injury which will be a blow given that he had scored in the first-leg encounter between the two sides which NEROCA had won 2-1.
Fraile also said at the pre-game presser, “It is a very big match for both the teams. Mohun Bagan is a big football club and our amalgamation is also very good so we should keep that. Mohun Bagan has a new coach and they will be playing better. It will be a very hard match tomorrow for us. Hope we keep at the level we are keeping and score three points.”
Both teams have a passionate fan following and find themselves coming to face to face at a make or break juncture of the league. By all accounts, the fans are set for a cracker of a game.