Margao, Nov 23 (UNI) Reigning champion Dempo, who performed creditably in last year's NFL, will open the campaign against another local team Salgaocar Sports Club in the inaugural tie of 2007-08 AIFF Professional League which kicks off tomorrow here at Nehru Stadium, Fatorda.
Dempo, which has managed to retain most of its last year's team and strengthened further with the induction of quality players, are upbeat about their chances of defending the title.
Coach Arman Colaco said, ''We have prepared for the challenge and have worked very hard to get the right combination for the opening match. the boys are focussed and I am confident, we will get off to a positive start.'' Mr Colaco said winger Clifford Miranda, who had shin bone fracture, will not play in the league. His absence will hurt the team. ''Clifford has always been a brilliant player for Dempo, who would marshal the left wing. The others are fit and raring to go,'' the coach said.
Dempo, with three foreign players, are a balanced side with the Nigerian duo of Renty Martin and Edeh Chidi combining well and spearheading the attack for the team, while Anthony Pereira is another striker. Their half line too works well with Brazilian Roberto Mendes Silva, Climax Lorence and Jerry Zirsanga. The Dempo strong defence line comprises Mahesh Gawali, Sameer Naik, and John Dias.
On the other hand, Salgaocar, promoted back into the premier division, is keen to make a strong comeback.
Coach Savio Madeira said his team is youthful and experienced.
''I am happy the team is shaping well, having put up a good show in the recent Durand Cup and also finished runners up in the state Vodafone-sponsored professional league.
He said the first match is important in any tournament and ''we are keen to do well against Dempo tomorrow''.
''If we go with the right and positive attitude, we will definitely get good results,'' the coach said adding that he was quite happy with the performance of his team so far but the boys needed to keep improving and sharpen up the front.
Salgaocar are pinning their hopes on foreign player Felix Chimaokwu, Anil Kumar, S Malswamtulunga and Nicholas Rodrigues. They too boast of a very good mid-field which consists of Racus Lamares, Malswamtulunga, Joe Rodrigues, Nicholas Rodrigues, Francis Andrade and Jerose Oliveira.
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi will inaugurate the championship tomorrow in the presence of Goa Chief Minister Digamber Kamat. Film star John Abraham will be be present at the opening ceremony.