Debutants Real Kashmir FC will be aiming for nothing less than a victory in their bid to keep title hopes alive when they take on Gokulam in a 12th I-League encounter here Wednesday. Kashmir are on 29 points from 15 games, just one behind leaders Chennai City and a victory on Wednesday can catapult the debutants to the top spot.
Kashmir's chances livened up after second-placed Churchill Brothers lost 2-3 to laggards Shillong Lajong in Shillong on Tuesday. Both Real Kashmir and Churchill are on 29 points but the Goan side is just ahead on account of a better goal difference.
Gokulam, on the other hand, are totally out of the equation, having garnered 12 points from 14 games. But under new Technical Director Gift Raikhan, Gokulam have shown some stomach for fight of late after a promising start to the campaign two months earlier.
Both teams played out draws in their last game, but Gokulam's performance against Mohun Bagan will surely boost their confidence ahead of Wednesday's crucial clash. Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Kashmir's Scottish coach David Robertson said: "Wednesday's game is just like another game. We don't think it's going to be easy, it's going to be difficult. They have made some changes in their team by getting in some quality players and they have signed in a new Technical Director too.
"It will be a different team we will be facing. If we work hard and do the things we have done and keep consistency like other games, then hopefully we will be getting the points." Robertson was referring to the first encounter between the two sides played at Kochi when even though Gokulam was going through a rough patch, they managed to eke out a 1-1 draw.
He also said that he would start with both Kofi and Krizo, his two front men. For the visitors, this will be the third match that new Technical Director Raikhan will be in charge and they have not lost since he has come on board and have notched up two draws against Minerva and Mohun Bagan respectively.
"Real Kashmir are playing for the championship and Gokulam for relegation. Both are different things. The match will be very difficult as both the teams will be giving their best," Raikhan said. "Real Kashmir defenders are good, that's why they are on top. If you are in the title race, the confidence level is different and they will be in good momentum."
One thing is for certain though, that the visitors will not only have to contend with a brilliant Kashmir defence, but also the conditions and a vociferous home crowd at the TRC Ground.