Salgaocar Football Club will lock horns with league leaders Churchill Bros in a 22nd round I-League football match at Duler Stadium, here, on Wednesday.
Churchill Bros failed to garner full three points in their previous match against ONGC as they were held to a 1-1 draw. They are, however, two points ahead of East Bengal in the I-League title race and have a match in hand.
“The match against ONGC was a disappointment because we could have easily won the match. We missed too many chances and their goalkeeper brought some incredible saves of Beto in the closing stages of the match,” said Churchill’s technical director, Subhash Bhowmick.
“Five points lead with five matches to be played is advantageous. It will put us in the driver’s seat,” added Bhowmick.
Churchill had scored a narrow last-minute victory against Salgaocar in the first leg but Bhowmick himself admits Wednesday’s battle will be far more difficult because David Booth’s side is now completely transformed.
“Salgaocar are a tough team. They have rebuilt their side and are now as good as anyone else in the competition. We have to be at the top of our game,” stated Bhowmick.
The Red Machines will remain hopeful for India international Sunil Chettri and Afghan Balal Arezou to click in the attacking line.
Salgaocar will be confident after registering a solitary goal victory over Mumbai FC in the last game but they still need some more points under their belt to be completely sure of avoiding relegation.
Salgaocar are currently placed ninth with 23 points from 21 matches. Goalkeeper Karanjit Singh will be back into the squad having served a one-match suspension after he was directly red-carded against Sporting Clube de Goa in a 19th round encounter. Brazilian striker Josimar Martins da Silva remains suspended.
Meanwhile, in Gangtok, United Sikkim who are yet to find their second win in their 21 matches so far, desperately need a victory over Air India on Wednesday at Paljor Stadium, to stand any mathematical chances of surviving in their maiden I-League season.
“We are still fighting for I-League survival. Our season depends on tomorrow’s match. We need to win tomorrow and the players know it. Though we lost, the players played well against Prayag United in the last match and if we play with the same commitment, we can win tomorrow,” said United Sikkim coach Nathan Hall.
United Sikkim lost by a solitary goal against IFA Shield champions Prayag United on Saturday while Air India reached Gangtok with a morale boosting 1-1 draw against East Bengal.
“Air India are a good team and it will be a difficult match tomorrow”, added Hall.
Hall is expected to field the same side which played against Prayag United on Saturday at Gangtok with Nigerian Nurudeen Salau and Spanish Pablo Aracil as strikers. United Sikkim would be again missing their star defender Sandesh Jhingan who is yet to recover from an injury.
Meanwhile, Air India coach Naushad Moosa is concerned on how fast his players recover for the match at hand having made a tiring journey from Kolkata to Gangtok.
“Three of my key players reached Gangtok only yesterday. Players are tired but confident after the match against East Bengal. United Sikkim are always a tough team at their home ground and it will be a difficult match for us,” he said.
Wednesday’s match against United Sikkim is the fourth game for Moosa as the head coach of the Pilots.
Air India and United Sikkim had played a 3-3 draw last November in Pune. [H]