Mumbai: Mumbai Kenkre are set to host Real Kashmir in their Hero I-League 2022-23 match at the Cooperage Stadium here on Thursday.
After a run of three games on the road where they picked two points and suffered a crushing 0-4 defeat at the hands of Aizawl FC, Mumbai Kenkre will return home to the Cooperage Stadium, hoping to pick themselves up and get the important three points before the mid-season break. However, the hosts will face a stern challenge in the form of Real Kashmir, who might have lost their two previous fixtures against RoundGlass Punjab (0-1) and Mohammedan Sporting (1-0) by fine margins but still remain among the leaders in the league.
The two teams faced each other on twice last season, with the one game ending in a 1-1 draw, while Mumbai Kenkre picked up the three points in the relegation round, thanks to a winner from Aravindaraj Rajan, who will have a crucial role to play for the home side on Thursday.
At the pre-match press conference, the Mumbai Kenkre head coach Akhil Kothari expressed disappointment over the result against Aizawl.
“It was a difficult game against Aizawl but our focus is on tomorrow’s game. We have been preparing well and hopefully, we’ll get the maximum points,” he said.
Kothari then went on to make an appeal to all the footballing fans in the city to come and support the side from Mumbai. “I urge all the footballers and the youth to come and watch the game tomorrow. I hope our players can inspire more and more youngsters to take up the sport,” he said.
Club captain Kiran Pandhare said, “We have prepared well from our previous game. The atmosphere in the dressing room is good, and we are focused on the game tomorrow.”
Real Kashmir head coach Mehrajuddin Wadoo talked about his memories from his experience in Mumbai and went on to praise the potential of football in the city.
“I have played for Mumbai FC and Mumbai City FC. I have coached here in Mumbai as well and in my squad, there were many local players with high potential. Now, Mumbai Kenkre have given a chance to many players from Mumbai to play in the I-League. There’s a lot of potential.”
Wadoo also discussed the problems Real Kashmir faced in their previous encounters. “I think against RoundGlass Punjab, we got two red cards when we were in complete control of the game. Against Mohammedan Sporting, we conceded in the second and received a red card there as well. We created a lot of chances, but couldn’t score. Our focus is on the game tomorrow against Kenkre and I hope the boys will give their best.” he said.
RKFC defender Jayraj Ghelani, who came through the ranks of Mumbai local football, said, “The whole team is looking forward to the game tomorrow, and we have been following the instructions given by our coach. I think we are ready.”