A starry afternoon awaits the I-League action between East Bengal and Dempo SC on Thursday as Goal.com looks at some key battles that could decide the outcome...
The Goan side are presently leading the pack but their all win record was marred by Churchill Brothers that helped reduce the gap between Dempo and the Red and Gold to five points as the two sides enter round nine.
The onus will be on East Bengal as a home victory for the Kolkata giants will help in keeping them in an advantageous position among a clustered top five, while a slip by either club will work to another's beneift in climbing up the ladder.
Thursday's affair promises to be an entertaining encounter, and Goal.com looks ahead by identifying the key individual battles that could prove crucial to the outcome of the match.
The Aussie striker has been in red hot form for the Kolkata unit and his performances have been quite consistent as well. More often than not, Ozbey is the one who leads the East Bengal attack, and the Dempo defenders will have to keep a watch on his darting runs into the box.
Mahesh Gawli has always stood stellar for Dempo over the years, making himself the man to beat if the opponent wants to score. The Goan's ability to make clean tackles coupled with his positioning will be challenged with Ozbey's quick movement and trickery.
A slippery customer and the engine behind East Bengal's front force, Penn Orji possesses the nick of providing through-balls to his side's attackers leaving them to do the rest. It will be a vital factor for Dempo to intercept Orji's passes as it will prevent a series of attacks.
Anthony Pereira's presence is enough to pressurise any team's defense as he can spray accurate crosses from the right wing. The Dempo midfielder can also take teasing free-kicks which adds to his side's options while taking important set-pieces.
It was his performance at East Bengal that might have well earned his presence among India seniors with whom he won the SAFF Championship. Although his display with the Men in Blue weren't top notch, it would have done wonders to the youngster's confidence.
Also coming from a successful stint with the senior national team where he also managed to scored a few goals, Clifford Miranda will be looking to continue the run with his club in helping them keep their rivals at bay.
Uga Okpara has been a consistent performer for his side. The tall defender is notably stubborn in disallowing any kind of operating space to his opponents which will be vital in the case of blocking an equally dangerous counterpart in Ranti Martins.
The Nigerian has always remained sharp and hungry for goals, and can score from any kind of opportunity - making him a lethal striker. Besides his finishing abilities, Ranti's movement in the opponent's half also allows his team-mates to surge ahead as the Dempo hitman generally draws the rival defence towards him.
A mouth watering matchup. Who do YOU think will decide the tie? Will East Bengal close the gap on the league leaders or will Dempo extend their lead at the top of the table?
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.