Aizawl FC have task cut out against defending champions
Margao, Feb 5 (PTI) Defending champions Minerva Punjab FC will look to defend their crown as they take on Aizawl FC in the semi-finals of the Nike Premier Cup 2018 which is organised by the All India Football Federation.
The two sides come face-to-face after fighting teams from the length and breadth of the country to make their way into the final four of the competition. The second semi-final will be played at the Nagoa Ground in Goa tomorrow.
Minerva Punjab FC could be termed favourites thanks to their title triumph last season led by Jeakson Singh who went on to feature in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup and scored India's first-ever goal in a FIFA World Cup.
This time, 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. It won't be easy and it won't be like 5-0 or 6-0," 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."
Meanwhile, Aizawl FC coach Jahar Das feels that his team has 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 said that Aizawl's strength lies in their tactical nous which could play a big part in the game.
In another semi-final, Bengaluru FC and DSK Shivajians, familiar foes in age-group football, lock horns with each other.
Both teams qualified for the semi-finals after facing tough competition in the playoffs.
Bengaluru FC pipped MSP Football Academy by the slightest of margins after the two were tied on seven points.
DSK Shivajians had a group decider against East Bengal who were serious contenders to go through