As a struggling Mohun Bagan side face Trevor Morgan's in-form team in the Kolkata derby, can Karim's men pull off an upset?
N.Chettri, Khongjee, Wadoo, Nabi;
Khabra, Okpara, Mondal, Saumik Dey
Penn, Chidi, Robin
Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will take on each other this weekend in the marquee clash of the I-League.
When they met earlier in the season, it witnessed one of the most controversial club matches ever played in the league. Mohun Bagan refused to field their side in the second half of the match citing security reasons after Syed Rahim Nabi was hurt by a missile hurled from the gallery. However, this decision didn’t go well with the All India Football Federation (AIFF), as the Mariners had to face a two and a half year suspension. Though the suspension was later revoked, they had to start afresh from 0 points from the 10 games played.
Mohun Bagan will largely depend on the lethal duo of Odafa Okolie and Tolgay Ozbey up front. The Nigerian striker has been in brilliant form this season, winning matches all by himself for his side on many occasions. Tolgay had been out of action for most of the season, but his return has been remarkable as he has scored in the last two I-League matches, against Prayag United and ONGC.
The Mariners shall rely on Odafa to break past a miserly East Bengal defense...Midfield has been a cause of concern for Bagan, as the team has often failed to dominate in the center of the field. Denson Devadas hasn't been in top form lately after his successful tryst with the Prayag United side last season. He has to take the responsibility of snatching and to keep a close eye on the ever influential Penn Orji.
For East Bengal, this is another step towards their target of winning the I-League. They are currently leading the standings and a win in this match can take them 4 points clear on the top, though they have played more matches than the rest of the title contenders. The team had dominated most of the first half in the last meeting with its arch rival and will again try to play their natural passing football to grab the bragging rights.
Edeh Chidi has been in fabulous form upfront, having scored 14 I-League goals already this year. Robin Singh is expected to pair up with him. The elegant Penn Orji will lead the charge in the midfield, providing the strikers with quality balls. Mehtab Hussain will act as a defensive screen while Lalrindika Ralte and Ishfaq Ahmed will look to invade into the opponent's box. East Bengal has conceded the least number of goals in the league and Uga Okpara and Arnab Mondal will be handed the task to keep the duo of Odafa and Tolgay quiet.
Can Chidi Edeh repeat his 4 goal haul from 3 years back...this time in East Bengal's colours?
The match will also be a tactical battle between two of the best coaches of the League. Karim Bencherifa had earlier won a league title with Salgaocar, while Morgan had finished second twice in as many years of coaching at East Bengal.
It is almost impossible to predict the result of a derby however, a glance of the two teams’ performance is enough to state that East Bengal is the favourite on paper. However Bagan has also been in good form recently, having thrashed ONGC 3-1 and Aryan 4-1 in the last seven days. One must recall that East Bengal had lost their last meetings against both these opponents. It will all depend on the nerves and the tactics of the two managers.
Mohun Bagan – Bewncherifa will have all his weapons available except for goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya.
East Bengal – Manandeep Singh is suspended for the game and as a result, Robin Singh is likely to be handed a start. Andrew Barisic shall come from the bench should they need more attacking options up front.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- East Bengal have recorded the highest margin of victory in derby duels when they defeated Mohun Bagan 5-0 in the 1975 I.F.A Shield final at Calcutta.
- 1997 Federation Cup Semi-Final between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan drew the largest audience in Indian football. The match played in 13th July, 1997 at Salt Lake Stadium drew 1, 31,000 spectators. East Bengal won the match 4-1 with Bhaichung Bhutia scoring a hat-trick, the very first in derby clashes.
- Chidi Edeh had scored 4 goals against East Bengal on 25th October, 2009 in Mohun Bagan's 5-3 win. This is the highest number of goals scored by a single indivdual in a derby.
- East Bengal holds the record of four back-to-back wins in derby clashes of NFL/I League – winning home and away in both, the 2002-03 and 2003-04 season.
- In 31 League games so far, East Bengal have won 13, the Mariners took away the three points on 10 occasions, while 8 others ended in a stalemate.
- Bhaichung Bhutia has scored the highest number of goals in the Derby. 13 of his 19 goals came for East Bengal, while the remaining are for Mohun Bagan.
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