The most entertaining fixture of Indian football is back again, with the two teams gearing up to take the field coming Saturday for the much coveted bragging rights. However, the starting points for the teams are too distant to even compare. For East Bengal, it is another fight to stay in the title-hunt, whereas Mohun Bagan will try to be firm on their mission to save the relegation.
The mayhem in Mohun Bagan started from the last encounter of the two teams, where they refused to field their side in the second half, citing insufficient security. This resulted in the Mariners facing a ban, which was later reduced to a point deduction. The punishment meant that the Kolkata side had to start their I-League campaign after a 42 day break with 0 points from the 10 matches played. Life has not been easy since then as the Green and Maroon brigade could only manage a single point from their first two outings. However the team has found form of late, as they snatched an impressive victory over an in-form ONGC side. This will also be a prestige fight for the side as they will try to prove their mettle against a much superior East Bengal side.
This is a must win match for the Mariners as a victory can give them a huge moral boost in their fight of saving relegation. The team has looked a different side altogether after the return of talismanic Odafa Okolie in the last match. The responsibility of scoring goals will largely rest on the broad shoulders of the prolific Nigerian. Tolgay Ozbey had joined Mohun Bagan from East Bengal over the summer and the transfer had sparked many a controversy as the Red and Gold officials had alleged the Australian of foul play. The striker had to pay a hefty fine eventually before he was allowed to play for his new side. Due to an injury, he was not part of the squad in the last derby. Ozbey will surely try to win this encounter to have a moral victory over the officials of his old club.
After the derby-debacle of 9th December, Anjan Mitra, the Mohun Bagan general secretary, remarked that East Bengal has got a “big zero” in terms of organizing skills. The whole football fraternity will now look forward to this match as it turns out to be a litmus test for the Mariners as they have the hosting rights.
For East Bengal, however, the primary motivation for winning this match will be to get closer to the beckoning I-League title. The team had started the season on a fabulous note, winning the Federation Cup and going unbeaten for the first ten matches of the I-League. However, they seemed to have lost their way midway this season which made them slip in their title hunt. The team has recovered well in the last couple of game-weeks, beating a mighty Pune FC side and a young Pailan Arrows team. With all the other title-contenders dropping points in the last weekend, they has been a window of opportunity to once again resurrect their campaign.
Coach Trevor Morgan will surely try to capitalize on that by winning the fixture. With Manandeep Singh being suspended for the match, Robin Singh looks likely to start the proceedings with Chidi Edeh upfront. A win in this match can take them 4 points clear on the top, though they have played more games than the rest of the title contenders. The team was enjoying a 1-0 lead when the last meeting was called off and they will look to reassert their superiority over their neighbours.
This derby may also mark the start of a new era in Indian football. The cheapest tickets are priced at a hefty Rs 200, which is almost thrice of the last derby's ticket price. It is being largely assumed that this may bring a steep decline in the number of spectators, as most of the regular visitors of Salt Lake stadium will not be able to afford the tickets. This will well decrease the glamour of India's most awaited football fixture, that often boasts of its more than a 100, 000 audience.
As the city again comes to life this Saturday, the football lovers will love to have their share of the platter. For the teams, this will decide their fate for this season to a large extent.
|Who among the two Kolkata giants will win this derby?|
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.