Mahindra United well prepared for opener: Coach Pereira

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Mumbai, Sep 25 (UNI) Going into his team's opening encounter against the formidable Churchill Brothers, Goa, in the rechristened I-League football tournament, Mahindra United coach Derrick Pereira said his squad was well prepared to kick off their campaign in Goa on Saturday.

Pereira said his team had put behind the triumph of the recent Durand Cup and instead were focusing once again on the team's performance for the country's premier league.

''We're naturally happy that the team has done well by winning the Durand Cup. But rather than revel in the victory, we were watching the performance of the team,'' explained Pereira, after Mahindra United's practice session at the Mahindra ground, Kandivali here today.

''We will be focusing on total football. We have a formidable strike force, midfielders and a good defence, which makes ours a well balanced squad,'' added Pereira.

Mahindra United, though, are hit by the sudden ankle injury of key defender Lamine Tamba of Senegal during a practice session yesterday, which is likely to keep him out for almost a month. But, with a strong back up, the coach remained unperturbed.

''Though Tamba would have been ideal to have in the defence in our opening match, we also have Justine Stephen, Harpreet Singh and Sushil Kumar who are equally capable,'' said a confident Pereira, who added that with a star-studded line-up he was in a dilemma to choose the first eleven.

Pereira chose to ignore the sudden dismissal of Emeka Ezuego as the coach of Churchill Brothers and emphasised that Mahindra United were well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent's.

''Their players are generally the same and Churchill play a different style of football under different coaches,'' he explained.

One of Mahindra United's tactics will be to put the defence of their famed rivals under constant pressure on a turf the Mumbai side are familiar with.

''In the past we have done well at the Fatorda ground, but we will get the feel when we practice on Friday morning,'' Pereira revealed.

Pereira said competition in the league had improved with at least five teams in the fray for top honours.

Captain Ajayan said the first match for any side is very significant.

''Yes, the first tie is always important. Though we have won the Durand Cup recently, which has enhanced our confidence, we still have to work hard in this competition. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels and be complacent. We have a good, young side as well as a good coach. Now we need to make the most of our opportunities,'' said Ajayan.

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