Vasco (Goa): In what will be a battle pitting the I-Leagues top goal scorers Willis Plaza and Jobby Justin against each other, Churchill Brothers FC take on Kolkatas East Bengal here on Thursday.
Trinidadian Plaza has scored seven times for Churchill this season to be on top of the goal-scorers chart, while QEB's Justin is second with five goals to his name.
The two-time former champions have 13 points from eight games so far while QEB have 12 from seven and are fourth and sixth on the points table respectively,.
A win on Thursday is destined to take either of them into second place and within touching distance of league leaders Chennai City, who have 18 points from eight completed games.
The visitors will be the more confident side going into the game having beaten arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in their previous game, while the hosts suffered their first defeat of the season in their last encounter against Manipur's Neroca FC.
Churchill have otherwise been fluent over the past month or so and have been prolific at the Tilak Maidan, scoring eight goals in the two games there so far. Besides, Willis Plaza, Gambian winger Dawda Cessay, midfielder Khalid Aucho and right winger Israel Gurung have put in very good performances.
Their defence has let in eight goals and Romanian coach Petra Gigiu will be hoping the backline does not suffer more given injuries.
He was circumspect on the prospects ahead of the game, revealing, "East Bengal is a very strong team and at the same time some of our players will be absent like Hussien Eldor and Wayne Vaz. We hope to play well and score one goal more than the opponents."
For the ‘Red and Gold' brigade, it should be all about maintaining the momentum. The derby win is sure to boost the confidence of the side but Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez Garcia will have his task cut out to ensure players are in full flow after the high of a win against arch rivals Mohun Bagan.
QEB have scored 14 times in their seven games and with Jobby Justin in full flow, coach Garcia's main worry will also be to ensure he gets the defensive combination right. They have let in 10 goals so far and with Churchill's goal-savvy forward line, they can ill afford lapses.
"Churchill are playing well, especially the attacking game. It might be difficult for us. All games are equally important and we will expect our team to win this match," said Alejandro. "We will try to follow our own style, the way we are working. Plaza is a special player in the box and we have to play an extra player in that area, so that he cannot score."
Garcia will also not have the services of Salam Ranjan Singh in defence, as he is on national duty and Costa Rican World Cupper Johny Acosta will have to be at the top of his game, given the profile and importance of the match.