Indian Arrows will look to leapfrog defending champions Minerva Punjab FC when the two sides meet in an I-League encounter in Bhubaneswar on February 5. Minerva had overcome the Arrows by a solitary goal in the first leg fixture more than two months back, but the youngsters under the able stewardship of coach Floyd Pinto, have found a semblance of consistency in performance since then. The Arrows lie ninth on the table with 13 points from 15 games and if they can pull off a win on Tuesday, they would move clear of seventh-placed Minerva and eighth-placed Aizawl, both of whom have 14 points from the same number of games.
Minerva's problems have been compounded by the fact that they have not won in eight games in two months, and have scored just once in that period. They go into Tuesday's game after shock losses to Aizawl and bottom-placed Shillong at home.
Their Irish coach Paul Munster said at the pre-match press conference: "The mood has been very good and training has been very positive. We are over here with a positive attitude and ready for the game tomorrow."
"It's a very important match for us and we know we have a chance of winning the away game. After this game, we are again travelling for AFC. So this game is a moral and confidence booster for us to get three points for the players."
"We know that Indian Arrows are all young players, full of energy and they are very committed. We have a lot of young players, and they too are just as energetic and perhaps a bit more experienced in the mix. Hoping that to be the turning point for tomorrow," he added.
The Arrows, on the other hand, have fought every game of the league and have an eager eye for goal and easily last 90 minutes.
Floyd Pinto's young guns trounced Shillong 3-0 before giving tough fights in losses against the likes of Quess East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, and Neroca FC, all firm title contenders at this stage. They also scored six times in that four-game period.
Arrows' coach Pinto was upbeat before match day, saying "Every match for us is a challenge. We take every match with the aim of winning. The last few matches, we have been on the wrong side of a one-goal game. We are reasonably happy with our effort."
"It is high time we score some points. It is a tough game tomorrow - a 90-minute battle. Last match in Chandigarh, we were not able to convert our chances. We have always been a team very difficult to beat. Our conversion rate has improved. It's now the time to take the right decisions at this point in the league," said Pinto.
Minerva have eased in the likes of Juan Quero and Mahmoud Al Amna in their previous game and will be banking heavily on their class and experience to put it across the Arrows.