Tomorrow in the final of the 65th National Football Championships for the Santosh Trophy former champions Manipur will be facing defending and 30 time record champions West Bengal at the Nehru Stadium in Guwahati.
The two states had met in the quarterfinal group stage where the match had ended 2-2 and Manipur went on to top the group as Bengal lost their final group game against Tamil Nadu with nothing at stake. In the semifinals then both sides won their matches with an identical 1-0 margin, Manipur against Services while Bengal got the better of Railways.
And going into the final Bengal are favourites simply due to the fact that they have numerous players who have played at the top level and have played finals, while the Manipuris without any of their top players have come with a young and rather inexperienced team, but so far they have been up to the task.
Bengal coach Shabbir Ali said before the final, "There is no substitute to success. We need to get our act right. This is the final and we are here to win it."
And talking about his opponents Shabbir said, "Manipur are a good side with a perfect mix of youth and experience and will be a tough nut to crack. But a final is all about temperament."
Meanwhile Manipur coach Ekendra Singh knows the tough task ahead, "We have gelled well as a team and I am proud of the boys. But this is the big battle. The boys need to focus."
"The players are in good rhythm. But this is a different ball game. Against Bengal, you can't afford to make mistakes," Ekendra added.
One can hope for a good final with the focus on the strikers on both sides - Branco Cardozo and Budhiram Tudu for Bengal, while for Manipur Nilakumar Singh and Tiken Singh.
The final will be shown live on Doordarshan Sports from 17.30 IST onwards.