These match defining battles might go a long way in realizing who will come out on top in this Federation Cup final...
Everyone has their own agenda in winning this game. The last meeting between these two ended up as a 2-1 win in East Bengal's favour. Penn Orji was on the scoresheet that day. We don't know if history will repeat itself, but these defining battles all over the park should.
| RAJU GAIKWAD
It has been a strange journey in India for Koko Sakibo. Going from Pune FC reject to Dempo SC star via a stellar season at Vasco SC. The wiry striker has a knack for scoring important goals and scoring them aplenty. He has been in searing form this Federation Cup, scoring four goals in as many games, including a wonderful hat-trick against Mumbai FC. Given the time, the man almost never fails to finish. East Bengal will certainly need to keep the Nigerian in check if they are to target their third Federation Cup in four years.
If anyone can stop Koko, one would be tempted to think it would be East Bengal's lanky centre-back, Raju Gaikwad. It is quite easy to forget that he is only 21 years old, having become a mainstay in every team he has been a part of and having broken into the national team last year, already garnering 11 caps. Having led the U-23s, it isn't to hard to see him leading both club and country in the years to come. His uncompromising and tenacious style of defending is something East Bengal will defintely need. Oh. And his long throws are crazy too.
| CHIDI EDEH
But Koko isn't the only in-form Nigerian going into the game. Chidi Edeh has the mirroring statistic of four goals in four games, three of these being penalties. But his pace and movement has tormented the I-League over the years and his sheer presence is a headache for defenders. Able to run at as well as ghost past defenders, his contribution has been equally spread out over the campaign, scoring at least once in every group game, a decidedly good return for any striker. Dempo need to stop thier former man if they want a good return.
But if you'd want any man against Chidi Edeh, it would have to be veteran Mahesh Gawli. The decorated defender has seen it all over the years and at 32, he must slowly be looking at life beyond football. His tencity and drive to never concede has made him the inspiration for a generation of young Indian centre-backs, Raju Gaikwad included. His calming presence on the field would certainly be to Dempo's benefit. He has crucially saved both club and country over the years and the fact remains that India still haven't found a proper replacement for him after his retirement last year.
| PENN ORJI
It will be an interesting match-up in the middle of the park when the two attacking midifelders go head to head with each other. Climax Lawrence has been pushing from the middle for over a decade for club and country and we all know by now the technical threat he offers. But often, more important than his attacking contribution was his work-rate and his desire to give all for the team. His tracking back and persistent tackling has helped his team out many a time.
Penn Orji is almost an antithesis to a player like Climax. Most certainly a flair player, Orji is happiest making a fool out of a defender with a splitting pass or his sparkling pace. While he can be and has been frustrating sometimes, not understanding the dynamics of a game, he has put in mature and good performances this tournament. Whoever comes out on top in this midifeld battle will be ensuring that their club has the readiest supply of attack in the final. Possibly the most important battle of the game.