Derrick Pereira's men will want to make the most of home advantage as the two sides seek to re-establish their title credentials.
Tabia, Edathodika, Ralte Gurjinder;
Karma, Pierre, Izumi, Daisuke;
Naoba, Mondal, Gurwinder, Robert;
Ishfaq, Mehtab, Khabra;
East Bengal will be looking to make a swift return to winning ways when they hit the road to take on Pune FC.
Following that debilitating home defeat against league leaders Churchill Brothers last weekend, the Red and Gold sit second in the table on 33 points from 17 games. With the Goan side being held to a draw by Mumbai FC in the first clash of the week, this game represents a golden opportunity for the Kolkata side to get themselves back in the thick of things at the top of the table.
For much of the season it had looked as if the Red and Gold had stabilised under the calming influence of Englishman Trevor Morgan and they were rightly considered one of the favourites for the title. However inconsistencies have crept in of late, costing them priceless points in the race to the finish. Out of their last 9 games, East Bengal have won only four and lost the same number with one contest ending in a split of the points. This abysmal run of results has seen them pick up just 13 out of the last 27 points on offer.
Last weekend was always going to be pivotal in the larger context of the season and unfortunately Morgan’s men delivered arguably their worst performance of the season. With many of their star names just not turning up on the big occasion it was an absolutely miserable no-show in front of an understandably frustrated home support. So bad was the display that the hosts failed to register so much as a shot on target in 90 minutes.
With supporters refusing to settle for anything but the title, Morgan’s men must display a marked improvement in all three departments in this game and after disappointing last week, changes will surely be afoot in the starting XI.
Meanwhile their opponents Pune have also endured a recent slump in form that has hampered their own title tilt. Unlike the men from the east who struggled to create any chances of note, the Red Lizards have been guilty of being wasteful in front of goal. It is a bad habit they just fail to get rid off and it saw them drop another valuable two points last time out against Sporting Clube de Goa. After an impressive mid-season run where they won 5 out of six games, Derrick Pereira’s side have hit the wall in their last two matches picking up just the solitary point out of six. As a consequence they have slipped to 4th spot and have 30 points from 15 outings.
The midfield has been Pune’s key area of strength this campaign and the likes of Arata Izumi and Douhou Pierre must stand up to be counted again as this game is likely to be won and lost in the middle of the park. Pereira will also be hoping that star striker James Moga gets back amongst the goals.
This contest is a real six-pointer of sorts where defeat for either side may see their titles hopes go up in smoke whereas three points will provide them with a fresh impetus for the dash to the finish. Triumph for the visitors will see them close to within two points of leaders Churchill Brothers, albeit having played two games more. Contrastingly, a win for the hosts will see them draw level on points with their opponents and Dempo SC, five shy of the summit.
Pune FC: The Red Lizards make three changes to their squad from the last game. Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua makes a welcome return from injury while experienced midfielder Shanmugam Venkatesh takes the place of Sukhwinder Singh. Influential winger Khanthang Paite is ineligible for this one in keeping with a prior agreement reached between both clubs.
East Bengal: Midfielders Sanju Pradhan and Lalrindika Ralte miss out through injury while defender Uga Okpara serves a suspension. Crucially, last weekend’s toothless display from forwards Robin Singh and Chidi Edeh will surely see one of the two make way for new recruit Australian Andrew Barisic.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- East Bengal lead the head-to head between the two sides by 3 wins to Pune’s two, while two games have ended in stalemate.
- Pune are unbeaten in three games at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex against East Bengal.
- East Bengal won the reverse fixture 1-0 thanks to a Chidi Edeh goal.
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