The Airmen will face an East Bengal side who are smarting after a loss to Prayag United in the final of the IFA Shield and will be looking to hit back in the I-League....
Soumik, Okpara, Gurwinder, Naoba;
Mehtab, Khabra, Ralte;
Baldip, Chaudhari, Bheke, Thube;
Pradeep, Omeje, Shetty, Thorat;
An in-form East Bengal side will face Air India in round-21 home match in Kalyani on Saturday. This will be the first I-League match for East Bengal after almost a month long break, while the visitors will try to heal the wounds of their 0-3 loss at the hands of Churchill Brothers last Tuesday.
East Bengal has been one of the most consistent sides throughout this season and are now in the second place with 40 points from their 20 games, while the toppers Churchill Brothers are at 42 points having played one game less. The Red and Gold are on the back of a IFA Shield final loss to Prayag United. Before the final, the team was on an unbeaten streak of 13 matches, which included the matches of the prestigious AFC Cup.
Trevor James Morgan, the coach of the Kolkata giants will rely on his 'pass-and-move' brand of football to overcome the visiting side. The primary concern for the coach will be the ongoing bad-patch of Penn Orji, who has performed well below expectations in the last few matches. The talismanic Nigerian, who was the pivot of East Bengal midfield in the last two seasons, has often struggled this year to reach his usual dynamic self. If his poor form goes on, the likes of Sanju Pradhan and Lalrindilka Ralte will have to take more responsibility of attacking from the middle of the pitch.
Another concern for Morgan will be the fatigue the players are suffering due to the congested fixtures. The team was playing in three tournaments during the break - AFC Cup, Calcutta Football League and IFA Shield. Mehtab Hussain, the indispensible part of the side had to play even for his office team between these matches. It is also to be seen whether Chidi Edeh, who couldn’t start the IFA Shield final due to a back injury can make it to the first eleven.
Speaking of the visitors, Air India has lost the motivation of playing since they received the news that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) will not allow them to play in next year’s I-League. The team started this leg on a disastrous note, surrendering 0-3 against the chart toppers Churchill Brothers. They are now at the 12th position of the table, managing only 18 points from their 19 games played. The team has failed to find a regular goal-scorer since Manandeep Singh left the team at the start of the season. Henry Ezeh and Elijah Junior will bear the responsibilities of scoring for the side. The likes of Baldip Singh will have a tough time at the back, defending the prolific strike line of East Bengal.
East Bengal:- It is likely that Chidi Edeh will start the proceedings with Baljit Singh upfront. In the absence of regulars Arnab Mondal, Gurwinder Singh will pair up with Uga Okpara at the heart of the defense. Ishfaq Ahmed may get his share of first team action, after starting at the bench for the last few matches.
Air India:- Godfrey Pereira, the coach of the struggling side does not have much options to choose from. Still, he may shuffle his cards in order to find a winning combination.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- East Bengal has conceded the least number of goals (11) in the league. However, none of the top-five teams have scored fewer goals than East Bengal.
- East Bengal has won all of the last five encounters between these two teams.
- Air India has lost three of their last 5 I-League matches, has won one and on the other occasion, honours were shared.
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