IMPHAL, Jan 26 (IANS): Neroca FC are all set to take on Hero I-League table toppers Minerva Punjab in the much-awaited top-of-the-table encounter at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium here on Saturday.
A surprise loss to Shillong Lajong in their last game ended Neroca's incredible nine-game unbeaten run in the league but Gift Raikhan's boys will be relishing the opportunity to take on fellow title rivals in the hope of closing the gap towards the top spot.
Just a solitary point separates the teams but the men from the north-east region have played two games more than the Punjab-based side.
"We should not take tomorrow's match lightly also it should not be treated as a very difficult game. It's a football match after all. Last match (against Shillong Lajong) was not our day. Tomorrow we will try our best," expressed a confident Gift Raikhan, the man-in-charge at Neroca FC.
Interestingly, Neroca's only other defeat in the league came against Minerva Punjab in their first game of the season.
In a match where Felix Chidi gave his side the lead, Chencho Gyeltshen and Lago Bei netted the goals that allowed Minerva Punjab to fight back and claim all three points.
"We know Minerva Punjab. We played our first match against them. We lost. We scored first but they scored two. We remember the match and accordingly will approach tomorrow's game," said Raikhan.
Lalit Thapa's absence in between the sticks is something that will hurt Neroca as Chencho and co. will look to test the stand-in goalkeeper with multiple attempts on goal.
Goals have not been an issue for the team from Punjab, as they have managed to come up with results to comfortably claim the top spot with 22 points from nine games.
Head coach Khogen Singh will demand nothing less than a win from his side since Minerva Punjab are entering a testing phase in their dream run for the title.
"Neroca are a good team. They are high on tempo but we are hoping to get three points from here," said Khogen.
"It can be a turning point in the title race so we are prepared. They are a good side."
Chencho Gyeltshen has been in supreme form for his side and Khogen Singh will be hoping that their star forward from Bhutan can continue his terrific form against Neroca FC in what promises to be an exciting contest for football fanatics.