East Bengal - Kuwait SC Preview: All or nothing for the Red and Gold as Kolkata prepares for a thriller
Players issue rallying cry to teammates as the Kolkata side find themselves one step away from history, but in their way stand the champions themselves..
By Nikhil Jitendran
For East Bengal, the equation couldn’t be simpler. Win by a margin of two or more goals. Lose or draw and it's curtains for them. No Indian side, barring Dempo SC, has ever reached the finals of the competition, let alone win it.
The Kolkata outfit were indeed were fortunate but crafty as they came back to score two important away goals, thanks to Uga Okpara and Lalrindika Ralte in the first leg of the semi-finals. Nevertheless, the situation will get no easier at home thanks to the strength of the opposition.
The I-League outfit's form of late has been worrying as well. They initially kicked off their I-League campaign against Shillong Lajong with a resounding 4-0 away victory but then slumped to a humiliating 1-3 defeat against Dempo SC at home.
Ryuji Seouka is expected to sit out this match due to injury while Abhijit Mondal, Mehtab Hossain, Joaquim Abranches, Naoba Singh and Calvin Lobo are all expected to make the cut for the home team. Ralte will be given a free run on the right after he had left-back Al Sanea on the ropes in the first leg.
Sudanese striker James Moga, has expressed the desire and belief in the team. Speaking to The Telegraph, he said, “Kuwait SC are tactically and technically ahead. We have to play intelligently to counter their threat. Perhaps rely on counter-attacks. We know we can’t let in any more goals. So we have to balance our style of play. I haven’t been playing at my best so far this season and have to make amends."
Kuwait SC have the luxury of sitting on a comfortable lead and pounce on any chance offered by the opposition. However, whether they do implement that tactic is the question as the Romanian coach Marin Ion will remind them of the dangers of lifting their foot off the gas as they witnessed in the last game against the Kolkata giants.
As per Tamer Abdel, Kuwait SC media manager, the main problems facing the Kuwaiti side is the artificial turf at the Salt Lake stadium. “We are not used to playing on this sort of surface. We have to get used to the conditions,” he elucidated.
Kuwait SC are in a rich run of form having won all of their league games after the semi-final against East Bengal with Jemma and Waleed Ali Jumah among the goals. Bahraini defender Hussain Ali Baba is included in the squad and his experience will bring composure at the back for the visitors.
Farhad Al Ansari is likely to miss out due to an injury that kept him out of the first leg as well while the rest of the 18-man squad remains unchanged. Brazilian playmaker Rogerio is expected to take on the responsibility of being Kuwait’s lynchpin. Keeper Musab Al Kanderi will be itching to make amends after he let in two loose goals in the earlier fixture.
“Both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are tough opponents. But on current form, East Bengal seem to be way ahead,” said Abdel, whose side beat Mohun Bagan 1-0 away in a 2009 AFC Cup tie.
Kuwait SC might be the better side on paper as they head into this match, but East Bengal coach Marcos Falopa will know that his side have a chance if they get their tactics right. An expected crowd of 50,000 and more will play a huge part in spurring his team on.
It isn’t inexplicable to think the hosts might actually overcome the reigning AFC Cup champions. Yet with all to do for the Kolkata based side, some may be forgiven for thinking otherwise. East Bengal will have history within their reach and they’ll go all-out to get what they want - a ticket to the finals.
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Top 3 Predictions
East Bengal F.C. 3-1 AlKuwait SC
- 26.67 %
East Bengal F.C. 2-0 AlKuwait SC
- 22.22 %
East Bengal F.C. 3-0 AlKuwait SC
- 11.11 %
|AFC Cup (AC)||22-Oct-2013||East Bengal F.C. 0 - AlKuwait SC 3|
|AFC Cup (AC)||01-Oct-2013||AlKuwait SC 4 - East Bengal F.C. 2|
|East Bengal F.C.|
|11-Mar-2014||East Bengal F.C. 2 - Mohd Sp 1||I-L|
|01-Mar-2014||East Bengal F.C. 1 - Mohun Bagan A.C. 1||I-L|
|23-Feb-2014||Dempo SC 1 - East Bengal F.C. 0||I-L|
|18-Feb-2014||East Bengal F.C. 0 - Churchill Brothers SC 0||I-L|
|21-Jan-2014||East Bengal F.C. 2 - Bengaluru FC 0||INDF|
|30||Gurpreet Singh Sandhu||Goalkeeper|
|-||Musab Al Kandari||Goalkeeper|
|-||Husain Ali Baba||Midfielder|
|-||Jarah Al Ateeqi||Midfielder|
|-||Waleed Ali Jumah||Midfielder|
|-||Fahad Al Rashidi||Defender|
|-||Bader Al Azami||Goalkeeper|
|-||Shereedah Al Shereedah||Midfielder|
|-||Abdullah Al Dhafeeri||Midfielder|
|-||Abdullah Al Buraiki||Midfielder|
|-||Ali Al Kandari||Striker|
|44||Ahmad Al Saqer||Defender|