The 44-year old Moroccan faces an uphill task as he has a host of injured players on his hands with the Kolkata Derby being played this weekend...Karim Bencherifa could not have asked for a worse situation as the manager of Mohun Bagan. The former Salgaocar and Churchill Brothers coach will lead his new side against East Bengal in the first Kolkata Derby of the I-League season, with a number of key players racing against time to recover from injury in addition to the pressure of getting a favourable result for the Mariners.
Mohun Bagan are languishing at 8th in the I-League table, nine points behind East Bengal. Bencherifa knows that an unfavourable result in the Derby will all but erase any lingering title hopes that the Mariners have.
"I know quite well that a win in this match would solve all my problems. I feel the pressure is on them (East Bengal) as they have been doing well and are second in the table. You can form two teams with this East Bengal squad and both can give any team a run for their money," said Bencherifa was quoted saying..
|Bencherifa feels the pressure is on East Bengal before this Sunday's Derby|
The Moroccan was in charge of Mohun Bagan in 2009 when the Mariners won a famous 5-3 victory with Nigerian striker Edeh Chidi scoring four of the goals. The Nigerian, now with East Bengal, will be up against his former employers as he looks to add more goals to his Derby kitty. Bencherifa, however feels that both teams have come a long way since that eventful day in 2009. "I feel everything, including the two teams, have changed a lot. However I hope the outcome is same in terms of getting three points," he opined.
The injury to Bagan's Nigerian striker Odafa Okolie cannot have come at a worse time for Bencherifa. Odafa has been the only scorer for the Mariners under Bencherifa this season, that include a sublime free-kick against Mumbai FC and a quickfire brace against Pune FC. Bencherifa is well aware that Odafa is key to Mohun Bagan's hopes of getting one over East Bengal.
"He (Odafa) is feeling some pain in the rib while jogging and having some difficulty in breathing. I advised him to do some cycling (in gym),so that he can work out without feeling any pain," Bencherifa revealed. The 44-year old also has to contend with injuries to defender Echezona Anyichie who has a bruised knee while Aibor Khongjee is nursing a hamstring injury. Groin injuries to Syed Nabi, Jewel Raja and Nirmal Chettri have compunded Bencherifa's situation as he needs his best possible XI to take the pitch against East Bengal on Sunday.
Injured star striker Tolgay Ozbey, who switched to Mohun Bagan from East Bengal this season, returned from Australia on Monday and he took part in the Mariners training session. The 26-year old did some light stretching and was seen jogging around the sidelines. "I don’t feel any pain. I will take another 10-to-14 days to attain match fitness," said Ozbey to The Telegraph
"The good thing is that we have a few days to go for the game," said Bencherifa. "My mind takes me back to a few derbies where we had injury worries but still managed to do well. We have to adapt. I am looking forward to the match," Bencherifa signed off.
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