Trinidadian hitman Willis Plaza would look to replicate his last season’s goal-scoring exploits when his side Churchill Brothers FC open their I-League campaign against former champions Punjab FC here on Sunday.
The entire I-League season for the first time will be broadcast LIVE on DSport. The Discovery-owned channel has exclusively acquired the I-League media rights. The deal has come as a a big boost for the I-League, which only a few months back was deprived of the status of India’s premier professional club football league.
Star Sports, the host broadcaster for the I-League last season, had broadcast only select few matches LIVE.
Churchill captain Plaza ended the last edition as joint highest scorer on 21 goals, the same as champion side Chennai City FC striker Pedro Manzi, though the Goan side finished fourth in the league table.
The home side will go into Sunday’s match with a psychological advantage as they had the upper hand last season. Churchill had beaten the Punjab side 2-0 at home and played a scoreless draw in Ludhiana. Churchill will look to repeat their dominance once again this season.
With the exception of Gambian-Dawda Ceesay, Plaza, Israil Gurung and James Kithan, Churchill will be fielding a new team which will make things interesting as the Goan team takes the field for their first match.
Speaking before the match, Plaza said, “We have a completely new team this season with the exception of Ceesay and me. The preparation is like starting back from the beginning. For now there is nothing special, just building of good communication and understanding with each player.
“We are taking this game very seriously because it is the first game of the season and it will be good to start with a win.”
With a new name, Punjab FC will be looking for a change in the fortune as well, considering that from being champions in 2017-18 season, the team fell to the 10th position in the points table last season.
The return of an experienced campaigner in defender Anwar Ali, a former India international, to the team has certainly boosted the team.
Punjab FC also have another familiar face return to the team in the form of the goalkeeper from Nepal, Kiran Kumar Limbu, who will be a major force to reckon with for Churchill in between the goal posts.
The other key names in the team will be 26-year-old Brazillian winger Sergio Barboza Jr, former East Bengal mid-fielder Sanju Pradhan and the veteran striker Dipanda Dicka.
Punjab FC coach Yan Cheng Law stressed on the importance of a fresh start and said, “The difference this season and the last is that the entire squad is new apart from 3-4 players. We have changed our philosophy to meet the standards and demands of the modern day football, knowing that most of the other teams have got foreign coaches and are going to play serious tactical football.
“We have a perfect blend of experienced players who know the Hero I-league very well and a bunch of fantastic young players who are currently playing in the junior national teams.”
He added, “The foreigners that we recruited are also all new except for Dipanda Dicka who is a proven product in the I-league. They have all been brought to the club keeping in mind the Indian contingent that we have and how we can incorporate a perfect blend of Indian and international players.”
“Churchill are a fantastic side and have a good fluid style of play. They are very strong at home. It is going to be a tough game, but we are looking at a positive start. I hope to get three points and start the season on a high note as we need the motivation and confidence to play East Bengal next at home.”
The Match starts at Nehru Stadium at 5 pm. Fans can catch all the action LIVE and Exclusive on DSports.