The star-studded Purple Brigade look to leave their pre-season worries at bay as they host the Shillong side in the visitors' first I-League match ever...United Sports Club will take on the newly-promoted Rangdajied FC in their opening I-League encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Sunday.
Despite managing an impressive fourth-place finish in the last edition of the league, life has not been easy for the officials of the Purple Brigade. Prayag, their sponsors for the last season, opted to discontinue their association with the club after having been hit by the chit-fund scam. However, the players have shown commitment in the time of crisis and chosen to continue plying their trade for the cash-strapped side.
On paper they are still one of the formidable sides however their delay in starting the pre-season practice has done no good to the fitness levels and co-ordination among the players. Only a couple of days ago, the team suffered a 2-3 defeat in the hands of local minnows Aryan.
Coach Eelco Schattorie would miss the services of three players who would have otherwise made it to the bench. Goalkeeper Ishan Debnath, winger Snehasish Chakraborty and midfielder Souvik Ghosh will be unavailable due to their commitments to play in the inter-divisional tournament matches.
Though Sangram Mukherjee will return to the camp only later this evening after playing for his office side,
he will start between the sticks for the Kolkata outfit. Belo Rasaq will pair up with Anupam Sarkar at the heart of the defense. Dhanachandra Singh and Deepak Mondal will take the two full back positions.
Lalkamal Bhowmick will pull the strings in the midfield and C.K.Vineeth and Tapan Maity will provide width from the flanks. Mohammed Rafique, still recovering from an injury will have to start in a role of a withdrawn striker in the hole between the prolific duo of Ranti Martins and new recruit Eric Brown.
Speaking of the visitors, Rangdajied United will walk down the tunnel to play their first ever I-League match. Santosh Kasyap has a tough task ahead of him as many members of his squad lack experience of playing in the top tier league of the nation. Though the team lacks star-power, a number of promising youngsters will try to prove their mettle after helping the team to gain promotion after a fairly impressive I-League second division outing.
Among the foreigners, Lamine Tamba, who won the league with Churchill Brothers last season, has joined the club, bringing plenty of I-League experience with him. Tamba knows Kashyap from his Mahindra United days as the latter was the coach of their U-19 side. His former Pune FC team-mate, Edmar Figueira adds quality upfront.
“We have a large fan base who have high expectations. We have to cope with the level of I-League and the pressure that comes along with it,” Santosh Kashyap told Goal.
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