Kozhikode (Kerala) [India], January 28 (ANI): Defending champions Gokulam Kerala will host a rejuvenated Mumbai Kenkre FC in the I-League 2022-23 tie at the EMS Stadium on Sunday.
Following a home defeat against TRAU (1-2), Gokulam Kerala made a spirited comeback to record a 2-0 win against Real Kashmir in their first game at the EMS Stadium this season. The last two seasons' champions will be up against the Mumbai outfit at the same venue and would certainly be looking for an encore of the previous match.
Though still very much in the relegation zone, Kenkre has time and again proved to be an unpredictable side and has surprised their unsuspecting rivals on more than one occasion, the latest being the win against second-placed Sreenidi Deccan in the last game.
Kenkre has also managed to get good results against the likes of Real Kashmir (2-1), Rajasthan United (1-1), and Churchill Brother (1-1). Also in the first meeting of the season between the two teams back in January, Kenkre was able to hold Gokulam Kerala to a 1-1 draw.
However, Mumbai Kenkre had a rather difficult time on the road, they could only manage two points in six games. Home advantage and the support of vociferous fans in Kozhikode will help Gokulam Kerala to start as favourites and it could be gauged from the confident tone of the head coach Francesc Bonet when he addressed the media at the pre-match press conference.
The Spaniard said as quoted by an I-League press release: "All the teams in the league are of top quality. Following their big win in the previous encounter, Kenkre will come to this game full of confidence. However, I am pretty confident that my team will win tomorrow."
A win for rivals RoundGlass Punjab on Friday meant the Warriors moved eight points ahead of the defending champions. Irrespective of the title race, Bonet feels each game is equally important and it is crucial for his team to remain focused on themselves "I think we have to take it by each match as all the three points are important. We have to be focused. I know right now other teams need to drop points if we want to win the title, but we need to win all our remaining matches," Bonet said.
Thahir Zaman, the Gokulam winger, who hails from Kozhikode, scored the first goal in the match against Real Kashmir. Zaman was happy to score in his home city but has his eyes set on the three points in the next game.
"It was a nice experience to score goals in my home city. But the most important thing is to play as a team and win the three points," the 27-year-old said.
"We need to improve our performance as the league is getting tighter. We need to win maximum points in our home match," Zaman added.
The match between Gokulam Kerala and Mumbai Kenkre will be broadcast live on Eurosport and Doordarshan Sports and streamed live on the Discovery Plus OTT platform. The match will kick off at 4:30 pm IST. (ANI)