Kalyani, March 9 (IANS) Clayvin Zuniga and Luka Majcen of Churchill Brothers have been scoring goals for fun. It’s not just the goals that make the Fernando Varela-coached side the favourites for the I-League title, their defence has also been impeccable this season, conceding the least number of goals.
The Red Machines might be on their way to be invincibles this season, but before they can dream about the impossible, a tough test in the form of Gokulam Kerala FC lies in their path.
Churchill are sitting comfortably at the top of the table with 25 points from 11 matches, while Gokulam Kerala FC are not far behind with 19 points after 11 games. It is probably the biggest match of the season for both teams as a win for Gokulam will add more drama to the title race but if Churchill manages to claim three points it might just seal the deal. The last time these two sides met, a goalfest was witnessed when the Red Machines won 3-2 against the Malabarians.
Fernando Varela’s side would love to keep the winning momentum going as three points on Wednesday will take them a step closer to the title.
Speaking at the official press conference, head coach Varela said, “We spoke about our objective in each match and it is to fight till the end. We work on our concentration to be able to fight till the last minute. The players who come on from the bench come on with the same mentality. In the last match, I was sure that the change will give us opportunities to score and it did.”
When asked about his approach for the Gokulam match, he said, “The approach will be similar to what we had when we faced them last time. We will look to take the ball and dominate the game. We need to be strong on the ball like we are and try to show good football.”
“I think we have dominated all the matches we have played this season. A 6-point lead is not massive in football, we have to focus on the next match. In my opinion, we are the best team in the Hero I-League,” he added.
Midfielder Fredsan Marshall, on scoring the injury-time winner in the last match, said, “It is a feeling I cannot describe in words. It was a really good feeling and more importantly, it was 3 crucial points for the team.”
“Varela thinks out of the box. In Indian football, we need coaches who think out of the box to help the players. I have played under many foreign and Indian coaches but Varela is special,” added Marshall as he praised his coach.
Gokulam Kerala FC managed a 1-0 win over RoundGlass Punjab FC in their last match and the Malabarians, second on the league table, will aim to shorten the gap between them and the league leaders.
Speaking at the official press conference, head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese said, “Last time we played good football and I hope that we have a good defensive performance. We must try to open spaces and stretch the opposition defence and penetrate through the middle.”
“It is important to win this game not just for us but for the league to be open. Another win for Churchill will close the title race for us. It is the most important game in the I-League for us and is like a final. I hope my guys will give an extra performance that will help us claim 3 points. A win against them will open the doors for all the teams.”
“We aim to be compact tomorrow and we need to be a better force as they have one of the best attacks in the league. A lot will depend on teamwork and communication. Their attackers are very good and we need to be focused,” he added.
Defender Deepak Devrani said, “We have improved a lot from our first game and we are much settled now. The coach has worked a lot on our defensive structure. The main thing that has helped us in defence is communication. Communication has helped keep a better structure which helps in keeping clean sheets.”
“It is a very important game against Churchill as they lead the table and we have a chance to shorten their lead. A win against them will keep the league open. Our focus is not on the league table, our focus is on 12 points in the next four matches.”