Imphal (Manipur) [India], February 6 (ANI): Despite two defeats in the last five matches, Sreenidi Deccan FC has held onto the top spot on the I-League table albeit jointly with RoundGlass Punjab FC. Besides, they have won their last two ties, the last one 3-0 against Churchill Brothers.
However, the Deccan Warriors will be up against a tough challenge on Tuesday here at the Khuman Lampak Stadium, against TRAU FC. The home team is yet to lose here this season, the only draw coming in the last match against Mohammedan Sporting.
It is imperative that the Deccan Warriors do not drop points at this stage if they are to keep RoundGlass Punjab at arm's length. Right now both are on 31 points, with Sreenidi Deccan ahead on goal difference. With the kind of form his boys showed in the last match, Sreenidi head coach Carlos Vaz Pinto should not have had much to worry about. But that was against Churchill Brothers, who have blown hot and cold this season. Leimapokpam Nandakumar Singh's TRAU is more disciplined, as shown by their almost perfect home record (5 wins, 1 draw).
On the eve of the match, Nandakumar said as quoted by an I-League press release, "The boys are eager to play well against big teams."He also admitted that the home record adds to the team's confidence. "We have never lost at home this season and that feeling helps in taking on a top side like Sreenidi."From the exuberance of Salam Johnson Singh to the calm finishing of Komron Tursunov up front, from the youth of Sagolsem Bikash Singh to the experience of Gerson Vieira in the midfield, from the staunchness of Manash Protim Gogoi to the strength of captain Gerard Williams in defence - TRAU are a tougher proposition. They did look off-colour against a wasteful Mohammedan Sporting in their last outing, but it would be wrong for Sreenidi to take that result too seriously.
Off days are natural in a long league and in the last two weeks, the teams in the top half have had more off days than those in the bottom half. Considering second-placed RoundGlass were held by Mumbai Kenkre and bottom-placed Sudeva in consecutive matches, third-placed Gokulam Kerala lost to NEROCA and even toppers Sreenidi lost to Kenkre during this period, the goalless draw against Mohammedan was not a bad result for fourth-placed TRAU. If Nandakumar's defence remains solid, he can hope for full points even against the table-toppers, given the options he has in attacking third.
That confidence flowed through Johnson's words as he remarked, "We are excited to play a big team and we hope we can pick up three points."The depth of Sreenidi's squad does not need reiteration this late in the league. David Castaneda Munoz is still leading the scorers' list and backup striker Louis Ogana is also among the goals. Rosenberg Gabriel has been one of the best Indian wingers this season, Lalromawia has impressed too after returning from injury. With the option of Afghan international Faysal Shayesteh, Pinto is a rich man. The likes of Awal Mohammed, Asheer Akhtar and Arijit Bagui gives him a potent defence.
However, assistant coach Birendra Thapa understands the difficulty of playing TRAU at their home, whom they beat by a solitary goal in Hyderabad. "TRAU is a very good team. We are not taking them lightly," he said on Monday.
Everything points to a mouth-watering clash on Tuesday afternoon.
The match will be telecast live on Eurosport, DD Sports and Discovery Plus OTT platform from 2 pm. (ANI)