The biggest game in the I-League is upon us as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal go face-to-face this weekend in a high profile Kolkata derby.
Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa highlights the need to do well in this game and why the I-League needs more rivalries between the clubs in order to capture the imagination of the masses.
“If I look back at our season with its ups and downs, I feel that we could do better despite the plenty of problems and challenges we had. In this context this derby is very important to all of us; we are all looking forward to do well in this game.
“This is by far the biggest game in Indian football. No one can understand the feeling you go through; which you will only when if you are involved in it. Personally I wish we had more games like the derby in the I-League - fans, intensity, rivalry, emotions, coverage,” he told Goal.
The Mariners are likely to be without the services of striker Odafa Okolie and Rowilson Rodrigues for this weekend’s clash but Bencherifa didn’t rule them out of the tie.
“Injuries are part and parcel of the game of football. Few players have small niggles but nothing serious except for Rowilson who twisted his ankle and may BE doubtful for the derby.
“Regarding Odafa, he was really unlucky this season. he is still recovering from his last injury. He wants to play the derby but it will be difficult. We are still waiting for the final opinion of the doctor,” explained the coach.
Bencherifa heaped praise on Armando Colaco’s side and credited them for managing to keep several top players at the club for the last few seasons.
“They are by far the most experienced and quality squad in the I-League. They have so many options out there. The club must get credit for keeping so many quality players together for such a long time,” he mentioned..
The last time the two sides met in the I-League it was Lalrindika Ralte’s wonder strike which sealed full points for the Red and Gold. However in January, Bagan downed East Bengal through a Katsumi Yusa goal in an inconsequential Calcutta Premier League game. This ended Bagan’s poor run of results against East Bengal since their last victory back in January 2012.
“We are playing some quality football since the start of this year. The fact is that in all the derbies this season we were very competitive and had the upper hand. Unfortunately we lost the I-League derby game because the individual brilliance of Dika (Lalrindika Ralte) who scored against the run of play in what was a world class long distance shot.
"We deservedly won the Kolkata league derby. The young players have a derby experience now and I am expecting them to do even better this time,” he concluded.
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