Last two Hero Super Cup Group Stage slots up for grabs

MANJERI: Two exciting encounters are in store on the final day of the 2023 Hero Super Cup Qualifiers at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri on Thursday, April 6, 2023, as TRAU FC take on Aizawl FC at 5 pm before Real Kashmir FC lock horns with Churchill Brothers FC Goa at 8:30 pm to decide the last two group stage spots.

In a north-eastern affair, TRAU meet Aizawl, with the winner progressing to the Group B of the Hero Super Cup to play against former ISL Champions Hyderabad FC, Odisha FC and East Bengal FC.

TRAU’s head-to-head record against Aizawl FC is something to reckon with as they are still unbeaten against the Reds in their last five meetings. TRAU had a remarkable Hero I-League season as they finished fourth, whereas Aizawl were winless in their last seven league matches and could only end their campaign in seventh position.

TRAU head coach, Leimapokpam Nandakumar Singh expects a tough and challenging match, but sounded confident. He said, “We have got adequate rest but our unity and the mindset to battle till the very end is our key.”

Meanwhile, Aizawl head coach, Caetano Pinho, was optimistic when asked about tomorrow’s match. He said: “The preparations have been good and the players are eager to play against ISL teams, so this will serve as a big motivation to all the young players in our squad.

“We have to be cautious against TRAU as mistakes could knock us out of the tournament, and we won’t have another chance to make a comeback as this isn’t the I-League”, Pinho added.

The second match of the day will see Real Kashmir and Churchill Brothers, two teams who finished one above the other in the Hero I-League, go head-to-head for a spot in Group D alongside Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United FC and Chennaiyin FC.

The latest clash between the two sides ended in a goalless draw at the Tilak Maidan in January. Earlier in the season at the TRC Stadium in Srinagar, Real Kashmir edged the Red Machines thanks to a lone strike from Ibrahim Nurudeen.

However, the Snow Leopards had to eventually forfeit the match owing to a breach of league regulations concerning the number of foreign players fielded. The incident adds to the heat between the two sides when they meet each other once again, this time in a do-or-die clash.

Speaking on the quality of the game that can be expected tomorrow, Real Kashmir assistant coach Mangesh Desai spoke respectfully of the opponents. “Churchill Brothers are a very good side with good individual players. We have always had tough games with them,” he said.

Adding to his statement, the assistant coach said, “The dynamic of the game changes a bit due to it being a knockout affair. We are hopeful of going out there, giving our best and coming out with a win.”

On the other hand, Churchill Brothers head coach Mateus Costa hinted at a few changes in the team ahead of the match. “We received three red cards in the final games of the Hero I-League season and will be missing the defenders. The majority of the team will be composed of new faces including new foreign signings (Sardor Jakhonov and Zacharie Mbenda),” he revealed.

Also Read: Sreenidi Deccan fend off NEROCA FC challenge to ensure Hero Super Cup Group Stage spot

Also Read: Gokulam Kerala outshine Mohammedan Sporting to book Hero Super Cup Group Stage spot

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