The Moroccan coach highlighted the positive frame of mind his team are in following some decent results lately…
Karim Bencherifa’s Mohun Bagan take on Armando Colaco’s East Bengal this Sunday in the 2013-14 season’s first Kolkata derby in the I-League.
The two teams haven’t had the best of starts in the league this term and a victory on the weekend shall boost their confidence and get their campaign on track.
Bencherifa acknowledged that on paper, East Bengal’s squad is the strongest in the country but was quick to mention experience alone doesn’t win games.
“We are mid-table and need points to get ourselves into a better position. There is no doubt that if you compare, we are not in an even ground. We have one team which has been together for four years playing against an absolutely new team. You have so much experience in that team. Only James Moga is the player who has never played a derby before and we know he is a top player who will cope with such an environment. On the other hand, not less than ten players are in my squad who have never played a derby. There will be not less than six junior players in my squad of eighteen. However the game of football is won not only by experience and thank God for that. There other things where I feel Bagan have an edge.
“Bagan have been unbeaten in the last six games, including the local league and have conceded only twice, with both goals being penalties. We have created a lot of chances. There were draws which were close to being wins. I am not worried as we have managed to find some consistency. The best Indian teams at the moment, take Salgaocar FC, Pune FC and Bengaluru FC, there is no team who has stayed unbeaten for six games and not conceded a goal from open play. These are good signs for us.”
The Moroccan believes his team is highly motivated to get a positive result on Sunday and it would help ease a few nerves. He listed motivation, team spirit and fitness where his side have an edge over East Bengal.
“A game is won by highly motivated bunch of players, which we have. A game is won by a high level of team spirit, which we have. A game is won by top level fitness, which we have and I am banking on that. I must give credit to the youngster for punching above their weight but also I must credit the senior players helping me in grooming the younger lot.”
Bagan’s talisman, Odafa Okolie shall play his first game in the I-League this season and Bencherifa believes that the Nigerian will give his best as he has recovered from the quadricep injury.
“Everyone pushed Odafa to play and he got a serious injury. You have to allow the injury to heal. You have to get back to fitness and then match fitness. You can’t get over the phases. I would say Odafa has about 80-90% match fitness. Looking at his quality and experience, he is a very acceptable condition to have a good derby. For me only Zakeer (Mundampara) is injured and Echezona (Anyichie) is suspended.”
Bencherifa stated that the derby is a game of mammoth proportions as it involves the emotions of thousands of fans in the region.
“Derby is not a normal game when you know the culture of Kolkata given the amount of emotions involved and the history of this place. You can’t imagine the fever of the derby. For the last ten days, it has all been Sachin Tendulkar first and then the derby. That shows big the derby is. I treasure this and take the emotions of fans into consideration.”
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