Champions Gokulam Kerala up against local favourites Mohammedan Sporting in high-voltage Durand knockouts opener
After a closely fought group stages, it is now time for the 130th Durand knockouts, with a blockbuster first clash featuring defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC (GKFC), up against local favourites and the first Indian winner of the iconic tournament, Mohammedan Sporting (MDSP) come Thursday, September 23, 2021, at the Vivekananda Yubabharati Krirangan (VYBK).
Both teams go into the game on the back of impressive performances in the group stages. With spectators being allowed for the first time in this edition and the local side playing, expectations will be high from the Black Panthers. They will have the crowd advantage.
On the other hand, Gokulam are the defending champions, have remained unbeaten in this tournament and would want to continue with their good form.
Speaking on the eve of the game, Gokulam Kerala FC Coach, Vincenzo Alberto spoke about areas they need to work upon and said, “We don’t need to make any mistake. We have 90 minutes and in those 90 minutes, we need to run more than them, fight for each ball more than them. We need to win most of the second balls. They are very good with the second ball as most of the time, they play the long ball from the back. We need to win to proceed to the semi-finals. I really believe that if we win this game, we can go to the final. So, it is very important to win this game.”
The Black Panthers’ Head Coach, Andrey Chernyshov shared his thoughts about fans being allowed for the game and said, “For a long time we played without fans. I have heard a lot about our amazing fans and finally they will come to support us. I am sure they will give us additional strength to win.”
(With inputs from Pratyusha Mukherjee, a BBC Journalist based in Kolkata)