In a bid to lift themselves from the relegation zone, Neroca FC will travel to the northernmost summit of the I-League, where they will take on hosts Real Kashmir FC at the picturesque TRC Turf Ground in Srinagar on Wednesday.
The reverse encounter between the two sides saw the Orange Brigade prevail over the Snow Leopards by a solitary goal (1-0), but since that result, the Gift Raikhan-coached side has gone on to lose four of their ensuing seven matches, leaving them in the dreaded relegation zone (15 points) with six games to play.
For Kashmir, their ambitions have been concentrated on the upper dominions of the league, but have lagged behind in the context of the title race. The Northerners can get a firmer grip on the possibility of a top-three finish if they make the most of their ongoing seven-game run at home and have so far, played two out of those seven – winning one against Indian Arrows and drawing the other against Aizawl.
Speaking ahead of the match, Real Kashmir winter signing Robin Singh shared his pre-match thoughts and said, “We don’t underestimate our opponents. Every team that plays against us wants to win and so do we. We just take it one game at a time.”
He also commented on his I-League return after a long spell away and added, “It’s good to be back in the I-League. From the day I joined Real Kashmir, the whole team including the coaches and the rest of the management staff have been very helpful to me, on and off the pitch and hence making my transition easier. The experience has been great and I look forward to finishing the season as high as we can.”
An eleven-day lay-off could work for or against the visitors but NEROCA FC head coach Gift Raikhan asserted his squad’s motivation and said, “We are fully motivated. Our next challenge against Real Kashmir won’t be easy, but my boys are ready.”
Weighing in on their Wednesday opponents, he added, “Kashmir are a good team and we have nothing but respect for them and tomorrow, we will fight for the three points.”
Neroca should, however, draw confidence from their previous outing, where they registered a thrilling 3-2 victory over Gokulam Kerala in Imphal but against Kashmir in Srinagar, it is poised to be a different ballgame.