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September 17, 2013 4:30 PM IST
Yuba Bharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium) — Kalkātā (Kolkata), West Bengal
70′ Ryuji Sueoka

East Bengal - Semen Padang Preview: Marcos Falopa faces his first litmus test

The Kolkata giants, who are in search of a dream start to the season, will face a tough challenge from the Indonesian outfit currently leading the IPL charts...

By Atanu Mitra and Nikhil Jeetandran

East Bengal Training Session
East Bengal FC

East Bengal will walk down the tunnel to appear for one of the most important fixtures of the new season, when they take on the Indonesian club Semen Padang in an AFC Cup Quarter-final match on Tuesday.  East Bengal had thrashed Myanmar's Yangon United 5-1 in Kolkata to advance to the last eight.

Life will not be easy for the Red and Gold's as the Indonesian Premier League (IPL) front-runners Semen Padang are all set to give them a run for their money. Unlike the Indian side, their opponents are midway through to their football season and have pulled off a number of quality performances in the domestic arena where they have won 13 of their 16 matches in the league.

However, for East Bengal, it will be a fresh start under the tutelage of Brazilian gaffer Marcos Falopa, who replaces the successful figure of Trevor James Morgan at the helm of the century-old club.

The officials have sealed a number of big summer signings including James Moga, Ryuji Sueoka, Joaquim Abranches and Shylo Malswam Tulunga, but it remains to be seen whether the available midfielders can fill up the creative void left by Penn Orji.

The forward line has however become more deadlier as Chidi Edeh will be joined by the prolific James Moga there.  Abhijit Mondal will continue to be the first choice goalkeeper as Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been left out of the 18-member squad.

The biggest concern for the Kolkata outfit will be the lack of match practice as they have played only two Calcutta league matches against local minnows in the run-up to their most important fixture after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Cup final in 2003.

Falopa went as far as to say, “Being a foreigner doesn’t necessarily mean that he is guaranteed a place in the team. Every aspect has to be considered,” referring to the volatility he faces in choosing his match-day squad. He acceded to popular belief that the East Bengal team needs to improve their performances if they want to get over the opponents.

Semen Padang are well ahead of their competitors in the IPL and are now enjoying an eight-point lead with a game in hand despite having drawn 2-2 over the weekend against Persijap.

They are known for their beautiful passing football, relying on the creativity of their Argentine play-maker Esteben Vizcarra and the South Korean defensive midfielder Yoo Hyun-Goo. David Pagbe, the Cameroon international will bear the responsibility of parrying the attacks carried out by the East Bengal strikers.

The biggest star of the side is the Liberian goal-machine Edward Wilson Junior, who has already scored 9 goals in the tournament. Skipper Fahrudin Mustafic is set to make his return for the tie after serving his suspension. Ismadi Mukhtar will however miss the match due to the midfielder being involved in a road accident.

It remains to be seen how East Bengal, who conceded the least number of goals in the I-League last season and boasts of a strong defense consisting of Naoba Singh, Uga Okpara, Arnab Mondal and Soumik Dey deals with the talismanic striker, who attracted a lot of attention from the Indian media a few months ago over his rumoured move to Mohun Bagan.

Jafri Sastrak, the coach of the Indonesian side, knows with all of the resources at his disposal and a quantum of game time they have had this season, his side look the better horses to run the full distance.

What is interesting to know is that, East Bengal have recorded 24 wins which is the highest by any Indian team in Asian Club Competitions. East Bengal had not won any matches in the last two AFC Cup campaigns, but have re-written their fate to go unbeaten till now in the current edition. A good record Falopa could extend, if not create a psychological impact with.

This is Semen Padang’s first participation in the AFC Cup after winning the IPL last term. Their greatest result in a continental competition was reaching the Quarter Finals of the 1993-94 Asian Cup Winners Cup.

A tie where two of the competing teams have a point to prove, can only be bedrock for an even spicier game to follow. East Bengal fans will be roaring their side on, knowing fully well that any home advantage is worth a thousand suns. Expect a humdinger.  

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AFC Cup ‎(AC)‎ 24-Sep-2013 Semen Padang 1 - East Bengal F.C. 1
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AFC Cup ‎(AC)‎ 17-Sep-2013 East Bengal F.C. 1 - Semen Padang 0
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Last Five Matches
Team News
Available Squads
30Gurpreet Singh SandhuGoalkeeper
8Thokchom Naoba SinghDefender
3Arnab MondalDefender
4Uga OkparaDefender
29Saumik DeyDefender
12Reisangmi VashumMidfielder
20Lalrindika RalteMidfielder
14Mehtab HossainMidfielder
10Edeh ChidiStriker
15James MogaStriker
24Cavin LoboMidfielder
26Abhra MondalGoalkeeper
19Robert LalthlamuanaDefender
17Joaquim Abranches Striker
11Ryuji SueokaMidfielder
2Raju GaikwadDefender
28Shylo MalswamtulungaMidfielder
9Alvito D'CunhaMidfielder
22Jandia Eka PutraGoalkeeper
2Novan SetyaDefender
11Hengki ArdilesDefender
5David Ngan PagbeDefender
16Saepuloh MaulanaGoalkeeper
10Vendry Ronaldo MofuMidfielder
22Edward WilsonMidfielder
6Yu Hyun-KooMidfielder
17Muhammad Nur IskandarStriker
25Titus BonaiStriker
8Elie AiboyStriker
13Akhmad TuansyahDefender
12Jajang PaliamaMidfielder
15Hendra BayauwMidfielder
18Akbar OhorellaMidfielder
7 RudiMidfielder
9Muhammad RizalMidfielder
Probable Lineups
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu 30
Thokchom Naoba Singh 8
Arnab Mondal 3
Uga Okpara 4
Saumik Dey 29
Reisangmi Vashum 12
Lalrindika Ralte 20
Mehtab Hossain 14
Edeh Chidi 10
James Moga 15
Cavin Lobo 24
Jandia Eka Putra 22
Novan Setya 2
Hengki Ardiles 11
David Ngan Pagbe 5
Saepuloh Maulana 16
Vendry Ronaldo Mofu 10
Edward Wilson 22
Yu Hyun-Koo 6
Muhammad Nur Iskandar 17
Titus Bonai 25
Elie Aiboy 8
Group A Matchday 1
Times In IST
Top Scorers
Player   Goals Penalties
Belencoso Belencoso
8 0
Omar Al Somah Omar Al Somah
6 1
Nguyễn Văn Quyết Nguyễn Văn Quyết
Ha Noi TT FC
6 0
Cezar Augusto Cezar Augusto
Yangon United
5 0
Gonzalo Damian Marronkle Gonzalo Damian Marronkle
Ha Noi TT FC
4 3