Panaji: Curtains go up on the seventh edition of the I-League with defending champions Churchill Brothers taking on Goan rivals Salgaocar Football Club at the Duler Stadium near Panaji on Saturday.
It is expected to be a fiery clash as Salgaocar are counted among the contenders to steal the crown away from Churchill.
When the two teams met in the Goa Pro League last month, the tie ended in a stalemate; without any goals. But in the I-League that is hardly to be the case as the teams pull out their best players for the job.
"The Goa Pro League helped me access the players and also strengthen my bench strength. I wouldn't say the team is settled but we are progressing nicely," said coach Derrick Pereira, who guided Pune FC to the runners-up position last season.
Pereira has not had the chance to field his best eleven in the local league where just two foreign players are allowed.
Nigerian defender Chika Wali and Scottish striker Darryl Duffy played the last couple of matches and although French striker Claude Gnakpa and Japanese midfielder Seiji Saito were reported to be carrying niggles, they should be available for the opener.
"Churchill is a strong side but for me the tougher the better," said Pereira.
Churchill Brothers, like Pereira said, are a strong side and remain the only unbeaten team in the Goa Pro League.
They enjoy a four point lead at the top and eight points separate them from Salgaocar, who are placed fourth. But Technical Director Sukhwinder Singh knows he cannot take anything for granted.
"The I-League will be entirely different. We are improving with every game and I am confident that we will give a good account of ourselves in the competition," he said.
Unlike Salgaocar, Sukhwinder may not be able to field his full contingent of foreign players. Gabonese striker Henri Antchouet and Portuguese midfielder Hugo Machado -- one of the better foreign players in India -- are certain to start but there is still confusion over the remainder of Churchill's foreign players.