Minerva Academy FC is all geared up to start their 2nd Division Final Round campaign in an away encounter against NEROCA FC on Tuesday at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal.
The 18-member squad led by coach Surinder Singh reached Imphal on the 25th morning, three days ahead of the match to get acclimatised with the Imphal conditions.
Minerva Academy FC had a fantastic run in the first round, eventually becoming the champions of the Western Conference. NEROCA FC in the Eastern Conference earned their final round berth by virtue of their 3rd place finish, behind Mohammedan SC and Gangtok Himalayan SC.
But those were a good two and a half months back and much have change since then. The power house of Manipur reinforced their squad with the signing of few high profile players like David Ngaihte, Sushant Matthew, Lalit Thapa along with two foreigners and more.
Minerva too have done the same. They have included the much needed experience players like Sukhwinder Singh and Kareem in the ranks to stabilise the team. The return of Bala Al-Hassan after an injury adds more power in the middle.
In total, thirteen new players were signed or loaned from across the country to strengthen the squad for the final round.
“We were very good in the first round and the results spoke for ourself. But the final round is a different one and much more competitive. We are treating it as a new league and looking to start afresh. The first round points doesn’t count at this stage, so its a new start for us again,” said coach Surinder Singh.
Commenting on the match tomorrow, Surinder Singh said, “It’s going to be tough game. NEROCA are a very good side and they have got some experience players in their ranks. Plus, the biggest advantage would be their 15,000 supporters.” He added, “We are aware of the difficulties and so we have also come prepared. And most importantly, we are here to play for three points.”
Players meanwhile are relaxed and confident. Harpreet Bedi, who started in all the matches and played full 90 minutes in all of them will be the vital cog in the defence this time again.
“I want to continue like the way I played in the first round. I have trained hard for that and I am in good shape to replicate that performance. But yes, final round will be different and we are prepared for that,” Bedi said.
The match kicks off at 2:00 PM tomorrow.