Imphal: Debutants TRAU FC will eye their maiden victory of the season when they lock horns with local rivals NEROCA FC in the first-ever Imphal derby of the I-League here on Wednesday.
TRAU remain rooted to the bottom of the league standings, five games into their debut season but have exhibited sparks of improvement over their last two games against Real Kashmir and Punjab FC.
The duo of Kofi Tetteh and Princewill Emeka has been showing signs of cohesion up front, while the likes of Abhishek Das, Soirasham Sandeep Singh and Patrick Uche are slowly starting to gel at the back. Phalguni Singh has also been hitting his stride in midfield.
Sharing the same ground, there will be no home advantage to bank on for either side.
"NEROCA are very much aware of the ground conditions. There is no advantage but Neroca have been travelling, so they must be tired but as we know, they are a very good side. They will definitely recover and we will have a good match," TRAU FC assistant coach Surmani Singh said.
NEROCA, on the other hand, have found it difficult to get the ground running, with their only victory of this campaign coming way back in the second round against northeast rivals Aizawl FC.
Since then, they have gone on to lose 1-4 at home against East Bengal before playing out draws away from home against Chennai City and Indian Arrows.
Since their promotion to the I-League in 2017, NEROCA have been in the upper half of the league standings and, despite not hitting full throttle yet this season, will be going into the derby as favourites.
Gaty Kouami and Chanso Horam have complemented each other well, while teenage midfielder Khaiminthang Lhungdim had a stunning outing in the last match against the Arrows.
Reflecting on how monumental this fixture is going to be, NEROCA head coach Gift Raikhan said: "We know all the football fans in Manipur are excited. The first Imphal derby is a great platform that Manipur football can use to build on. Everybody couldn't be more excited.