Bagan will be looking to establish themselves as top dogs again after loss to bitter rivals East Bengal while Mohammedan will hope to establish a new order in the city of Joy
So, as we head into this fixture, one cannot escape the fact that a lot more than just bragging rights hinges on this much followed fixture.
For the home team, this fixture comes at a time when emotions are high following the excruciating loss to archrivals East Bengal. Bagan’s record in the last five games though is something to bring a sense of calm as this is their first loss in five games. They haven’t gathered many points as the faithful would like and would definitely go out to set a precedent regarding future games, against Kolkata’s 'third' team.
Pritam Kotal, the Pailan Arrows youngster has been in scintillating form, while Denson Devadas is slowly playing himself back to his better self as shown against East Bengal. The biggest gain however is the return of lynchpin Okolie Odafa who played the Kolkata derby, but couldn’t capitalize on his chances. Yet his mere presence was enough for the opposition to fret about a lethal attacker.
“So he can't make those sprints. So we deployed him behind. The last chances he got at the end of the game showed he was clearly there throughout and did not fade away. That he played 90 minutes was enough and we can't blame him. And clearly it worked since it was Odafa who played some lovely balls,” said Bencharifa on his tactic of using Okolie, who returned after a lengthy layoff. Also Aniyichie Echezona is expected to return after a suspension that ruled him out of the Kolkata derby.
Kinshuk Debnath too excelled in midfield, a position he normally doesn’t play and Bencherifa will be hoping to have Adil Khan back after the medio was revealed to be suffering from stress related issues. A win would help Bagan climb up to seventh in the table, which will no doubt help them.
"Right now, I have four central defenders in Aibor Khongjee, Kingshuk Debnath, Eche and Rowilson Rodrigues who are in great form. This is a good headache to have. Mohammedan Sporting are a very good side with a nice combination of quality Indian and foreign players. We will have to dig in to get a positive result," elucidated the Moroccan to the Times of India
The Black and Whites of Mohammedan on the other hand will look to do the complete opposite against their age-old rivals. The seventh placed team, know this is as big a chance for the team to lift themselves into the higher echelons of the I-League with the top of the table in gripping sight.
They have had a taciturn league expedition so far, winning just thrice, though their ranks swell of proven goal scorers like Josimar and Tolay Ozbey. The latter has been on the end of criticism as many feel he has become a pony without any of the tricks he showed during his tenure at East Bengal.
The leaky defense also seems to have stitched itself up with far fewer goals being conceded thanks to the signings of the IMG-R outcasts. On Tuesday, it was revealed that Nirmal Chettri too had signed up for Mohammedan and it will be seen if Bola Moshood puts the defender into the cauldron immediately.
It has also been learnt that Mohammedan officials are promising an incentive of rupees one lakh for the squad if they beat Bagan and this will be a real treat to watch. Syed Rahim Nabi might not feature as he is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Both these teams have faced each other ten times since 2003, with Mohun Bagan winning all but one of the last six encounters, the one in question ending in a draw. The second Kolkata derby then promises a lot. With the prizes at stake and the desperation shown by teams to gain as many points on the table, one would expect an all-out encounter with much of the thrill that follows a title clinching game. However, bosses will tread lightly and know that living to fight another day is far more important at this stage of the season, than going out and losing a winnable tie.
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