Goa: Defending champions Minerva Punjab FC will look to defend their crown when they lock horns with Aizawl FC in the semi-finals of the Nike Premier Cup 2018, which is organized by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
The second semi-final will be played at the Nagoa Ground in Goa later on Tuesday .
The two teams come face-to-face in Goa after fighting teams from the length and breadth of the country to make their way into the final four of the competition.
Minerva Punjab FC could be termed favourites, thanks to their title triumph last season led by Jeakson Singh who went onto feature in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup and scored India’s first-ever goal in a FIFA World Cup.
This time out, after a draw in their opening group game against Gokulam FC, the team rallied to top the group and the team is looking to put up a good show against Aizawl FC.
“The draw Gokulam FC was kind of a shock for us. After that, the players were motivated and they were scoring every-time and beating their opportunities. Our level of football is pretty good and not bad. The semi-final will be a good one and we will enjoy.
It won’t be easy and it won’t be like 5-0 or 6-0. But are going to give what we have,” Minerva coach Harpreet Bedi said.
The coach also said that there is no pressure in defending the title.
“A couple of players have changed from last season. But the players who have played in the past edition are pretty confident. They are helping and giving a boost to the players who are appearing for the first time. We are going into the game with unity and team spirit. So there is no pressure on us,” Bedi said.
Meanwhile, Aizawl FC coach Jahar Das feels that his team have every reason to be motivated and hungry to win the Cup.
“There was a communication from our president Robert Royte who had asked about what are our (club’s) chances of winning the Cup. I said that our seniors became champions last season. So when seniors can do, the juniors also should follow the same path. They can win the title like how the seniors did,” Das suggested.
Das also revealed that Aizawl’s strength lies in their tactical nous which could play a big part in the game.
“We have been working on putting on a system of play. The boys are now responding very well to that. Tactically, we will be in a better position.
We are very very confident of going all the way to the final and winning the Cup. Our performances, especially against Reliance (Foundation Young Champs) and Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, have given us a lot of confidence in our own game. And we are confident going into the game against Minerva,” Das said.