The stage is set for the final of the Reliance Foundation presents Premier League Next Generation Cup as Wolverhampton Wanderers FC will take on defending champions Stellenbosch FC in the summit clash at the Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai on Friday.
Stellenbosch and Wolves topped Groups A and B respectively and are unbeaten in the tournament thus far. The Premier League club, coached by James Collins, are yet to concede a goal this season and have won all three of their fixtures until now. They kicked off the campaign with a stellar 4-0 victory against fellow English club Everton FC. Since then, the Wolves have followed it up with 2-0 victories against the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) and Sudeva Delhi FC respectively.
Wolves have often looked to get a foothold in the proceedings early on in the first-half. They have been extremely efficient from set-pieces and their forward Nathan Fraser has stood apart with his clinical finishing up front. The team persistently holds on to their defensive shape and that has enabled them to resist the opposition's attacks when they are out of possession.
Stellenbosch, coached by Evangelos Vellios, have a similar blueprint in the way that they approach the game. They have a very fit and athletic unit at their disposal and that allows them to be lethal from set plays. However, the team is dynamic going forward and has forwards and attackers who can be creative with their feet. They have demonstrated multiple ways of unlocking the other team's defence and that will be instrumental if they are to find a way past the Wolves' backline tomorrow.
Stellenbosch secured three points each from the two Indian opponents that they faced in the group stages. They first beat the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) 1-0 and then triumphed 2-0 over ATK Mohun Bagan. The South African side gave a brilliant testament of their goal-scoring prowess and resilience against West Ham United FC. They drew 3-3 against the Hammers in a terrific display of scintillating footballing action. In Wolves, they have arguably found a fitting match for a team that follows a similar playing profile as them.
"It will be our toughest game. They came to the United Kingdom last year and didn't lose a game in that tournament. They have not lost a game in this tournament. I have just said to the boys, 'Don't be kidded by how comfortable we have been so far.' We have won the games relatively comfortably; not because the games have been easy, but because we have done our jobs properly," Wolverhampton Wanderers coach Collins was quoted as saying by ISL.
He added, "This will be a step up. If we do end up winning tomorrow, we will have to work very hard. We will have to match them physically. They are an athletic and powerful team and are very skilful. They are good on the eye, and have good combinations, but hopefully, we are up for the task."
"We just want the boys to enjoy it. It is not every day that we get a chance to play the final. The game is not going to define the future of these players or who we are as a team. The fact that we have won it last season and re-emerged in the final this year is already a fact that we can be very proud of. We don't have the pressure of having to prove ourselves. We can do it for our people, for ourselves and really enjoy the occasion," Stellenbosch coach Vellios encouraged his boys ahead of the final. (ANI)