I-League 2022-23: Defending champions Gokulam Kerala host Mohammedan SC in season opener
Defending champions will host their title-rivals Mohammedan SC in the season opener of Hero I-League 2022-23 in their home ground.
Defending Champions Gokulam Kerala FC will host title-rivals Mohammedan SC in the season opener of Hero I-League 2022-23 in Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri.
The title race went down to the wire last season with the Malabarians edging out the Black and White Brigade 2-1 at the VYBK in Kolkata on the final day to lift their second consecutive Hero I-League trophy.
It will be a different environment this time around as the league returns to its traditional home-and-away format. Gokulam Kerala can expect a capacity crowd in Manjeri to cheer them on as they begin their quest for an extraordinary third straight Hero I-League crown.
"It will be nice for the players to finally play in front of the fans after two seasons. The players and staff have been eagerly waiting for tomorrow's game," said Richard Towa, Gokulam Kerala's new head coach.
Vincenzo Alberto Annese parted ways with the Malabarians after winning two Hero I-League titles in two years. His successor Towa is well aware of the high expectations from his fans. "In football, there's always pressure. Gokulam Kerala has won the last two I-League titles and it will be a tough task this season as well."
"Our preparations have been great. We've played a lot of friendly games with ISL teams and other Kerala clubs," added Towa.
Mohammedan touched down in Kerala after having a positive pre-season, where they reached the Durand Cup semi-final in September before winning their second consecutive CFL title earlier this month.
"Our preparations for the I-League started in July. We did well in the Durand Cup and the CFL and also played many friendly games. We can't wait for the season to start as the first game is always special," said Mohammedan head coach Andrey Chernyshov.
Unfortunately, Mohammedan will miss the services of captain and last season's Golden Boot winner Marcus Joseph in Saturday's big game. "Marcus couldn't travel with us here as he isn't feeling well but we hope to have him back soon," said the Russian.
As always, Chernyshov anticipates a tight encounter against Gokulam Kerala. "Gokulam are a really good team. They are two-time champions. Even though they've changed a lot of players and have a new coach, we're expecting a tough game."
The Mohammedan head coach concluded by expressing his delight with the return of the home-and-away format this season. "It's very nice to have the supporters back. Football is different from fans. Playing inside a bio-bubble was very difficult. This season is going to be much more interesting as we get to play across the country."