With less than 72 hours to go for the Kolkata derby, the fanaticism around the fixture is on the rise as expected.
As East Bengal prepare to host Mohun Bagan in an I-League match on Sunday at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri, The Mariners' head coach Sanjoy Sen conceded that the opponents were a step ahead on the preparations.
"Honestly, they are little ahead of us in terms of the performances. The have a really strong team and a lot stronger compare to the last season. But we need to play well", said Sen.
East Bengal did not conduct any training sessions on Thursday as they decided to provide the players a day off. The Trevor Morgan coached side will take to the training ground early on Friday before boarding a flight to Bagdogra in the afternoon en route Siliguri.
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On the other hand, Sen was seen conducting an extra long session on Thursday at the club grounds, going through specific defending drills. Understandable, as many fingers have been pointed at the porous nature of the Bagan backline.
Even Roomy Hasan, head coach of Colombo FC (Mohun Bagan's recent AFC Cup opponents), termed Bagan's defence 'shaky' and injuries to the trio of Eduardo Ferreira, Kingshuk Debnath and Raju Gaikwad have not made life easier for the former United SC coach.
Sen is leaving no stone unturned in getting his players fit but at the same time, he believes that the derby is not the be-all and end-all of the I-League. "The derby is a game where a lot of emotions get involved into it. The fans want a win at any cost and we will go all out to get a win. I don’t believe that a defeat in the derby will end our chances to win the title", he opined.
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The 'home' camp, East Bengal, have won their last six games and are in a good frame of mind but Trinidadian striker Willis Plaza did not train on Wednesday so as not to aggravate an injury he suffered during Sunday's match against Chennai City FC.
Even Wedson Anselme, Robin Singh and custodian Rehenesh TP were not seen on the ground on Wednesday. New Aussie recruit Chris Payne's visa hurdles have been cleared but he is scheduled to link up with the team on Friday and has been effectively ruled out from any action on Sunday. However, he is part of the 20-man-squad Morgan has chosen for the twin encounters in Siliguri - the second one being against Shillong Lajong on Wednesday 16th February.
Shifting focus to 568 kilometres north of the Kolkata maidans to Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri where all the action is going to unfold on Sunday, Mohun Bagan have been allotted to train on the ground at 11 am on the eve of the game.
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East Bengal officials were spotted doing a recce of the arrangements and pitch conditions and found out that there are still some uneven patches on the field which might require watering over the course of the next two days.
If at all the groundsmen are not able to ready the pitch in time for Mohun Bagan to train on Saturday, Sanjoy Sen's men will be left with no choice but to resort to either the BSF Camp in Kadamtala or Salugara - like for the last derby in the previous season.
Meanwhile, ticket sales are in full swing in both cities. 15,000 tickets have been made available for East Bengal supporters in Siliguri. However, Mohun Bagan fans have no choice but to purchase within their allotted quota of tickets from Kolkata and then make the trip to Siliguri.