KOCHI: For a club that was founded only in 2017, Gokulam Kerala FC have made great strides in their short history.
The Malabarians are right in the middle of the title fight for the I-League crown with just two rounds to go. On Sunday, they take on Mohammedan Sporting in what is a must-win game. If they win that, then the game against TRAU FC could be a potential title decider.
Gokulam are in a three-way race for the title alongside TRAU and Churchill and trail the two teams with just two games remaining in the play-offs. No team from Kerala has won the I-league and if Gokulam manage to do it, they will also become the first team from the state to play in the AFC Cup. The stakes are high and the whole camp is aware of the magnitude of the situation.
"We sure are under pressure. We need the three points so we need a victory," admitted Gokulam head coach Vincenzo Annese prior to the game.
The young Italian coach has done a commendable job of making the team play an attractive brand of football and also in getting the results. He said that the team is ready to do whatever it takes to keep them in the hunt for the title.
"It will be the last opportunity for us. Everybody understands this. In the training today, the players were very focused. It is the first time I can say this season that we are prepared very well, very positively. We might see some new style tomorrow," said Annese.
When the two teams met earlier in the league, it was Mohammedan who ran out winners but Annese suggests that they won't make the same mistakes this time around.
"We lost against them due to small mistakes. They are a good team, play good football. It will be an open game," he said.
Meanwhile, a lot will depend on Gokulam's frontman Philip Adjah who has played a crucial role for the team this season.
"Each and every player is focused in the camp. We are working hard, and will overcome Mohammedan," said Philip.
Meanwhile, Mohammedan are having a good run at the moment. They thrashed Churchill Brothers in the last round. But their head coach Shankarlal Chakraborty is wary of the Kerala outfit.
"Gokulam Kerala are a good team and they have quality foreigners and Indian players. They are still fighting for the title, and their chances would be better if they could beat us. So, it is going to be a tough game," said Chakraborty.
Gokulam started the season as dark horses but now are within touching distance of the elusive title.