Churchill Brothers lost their last game against Mohun Bagan 5-0 while Aizawl FC held Kolkata giants 2-2 with an inspired performance.
Meanwhile, on their way to clinching the title, Aizawl FC scored six goals and conceded only two goals against Churchill Brothers last season, collecting maximum points against the Goan side.
Aizawl’s Portuguese coach Paul Menezes reiterated that they will try to retain their title and they will fight for three points in every match.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference Menezes said, “We will play the way we played in the Mizoram Premier League. Sometimes we have to defend we cannot attack the opponents all the time.”
He added, “Several key players have left us but I hope we can form a strong team this season. After collecting one point against East Bengal I expect three points against Churchill Brothers.”
Newly appointed head coach Paulo Menezes led the defending champions to a 2-2 draw in their first match of the ongoing Hero I-League season against Kingfisher East Bengal, in a match where the Northeast outfit came from two goals down to snatch a point off the ‘red and golds’.
“We have a very good group of players and the most important thing that we have in the team is trust”, said Menezes, “We will take one game at a time and see how we perform. We will try to play to the best of our abilities in each match.”
“Andrei is our focal point in attack and it is a good thing that he will be available against Churchill. ” Menezes added.
Highlighting the importance of Aizawl’s captain and key midfielder Alfred Jaryan said, “Last season was a great one and the fans played their part too. We will try to replicate last season’s form and will give our best in every game. We play for the club, fans and also most important Mizoram.”
Two-time I-League champions hadn’t had a decent start to the season, having lost two of their opening matches against Shillong Lajong and Mohun Bagan. The Goan team coached by Ukranian coach Mykola Shevchenko are yet to score their first goal this season while conceding seven goals.
Shevchenko who has played for Churchill earlier is optimistic that his team will gain the much-needed confidence against Aizawl FC.
A centre-back in his playing days, said, “We have lost two straight matches and I hope we can develop and change as a team tomorrow. We came with a new mindset hoping to regain our confidence. We have travelled a lot these days and this makes it harder for the player’s recovery but injuries part and parcel of the game.”
Sikkimese Churchill forward Uttam Rai said, “I am having a lot of injuries these few months and its hard to cope with the mental effects but I have always worked hard for the team and I want to develop as a player.”
Churchill will want to leave Aizawl with flying colours as three points against Aizawl FC will lift them above the relegation zone. However, Aizawl garnered 25 points form a possible 27 points last season at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium.
“Playing for a club like Aizawl FC which has a very generic fanbase and has a very good story (referring to the Hero I-League win in the last edition) is a motivation in itself”
“The passion of the fans adds in the final touch needed to motivate”, he added.
The Portuguese coach has already been impressed by Aizawl’s setting as a footballing city and feels, “amazing to be a part of something so special”.
“The city is bustling with Aizawl FC colours. It is amazing to see how people from various walks of life come together and cheer for the club. It is a really special sight to see our fans wherever we go, be it home or away.”
The match is scheduled for kick-off at 02:00 PM and it’ll be telecast on Star Sports 2, HD 2 and streamed live on Hotstar, Jio TV.