The arch-rivals are at a very crucial juncture in the season where even a slight slip-up will end their already slim I-League title chances.
Even though there are no favourites in this particular match, East Bengal are in a slightly better position and the better team on paper. The Red and Golds’ squad was bolstered by the return of Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda who came back after a prolonged injury.
For the first time in this I-League, East Bengal will take the field with all six foreigners in their squad. The presence of all the overseas players is definitely an advantage Alejandro Menendez’s side have over Khalid Jamil’s.
Enrique suffered an injury after his team’s sixth match of the season against Gokulam Kerala. Incidentally, that match was just before the first leg of the Kolkata derby. Once Enrique was out, in came Jaime Colado Santos. The 23-year-old Spaniard made his debut for the club against rivals Mohun Bagan on December 16 and was quite impressive.
Another East Bengal player who got the star status after the derby was striker Jobby Justin. The Malayali striker has improved leaps and bounds since Alejandro arrived at the club. But his side-volley goal against Mohun Bagan made him an overnight superstar among the Red and Golds loyalists.
With Enrique gone, the responsibility fell on the young shoulders of Jaime and Jobby to score the goals for the club and lead the team from the front. Since the Mexican forward’s departure, the duo of Jobby and Jaime has scored five goals, three for Jobby and two for Jaime. They have led the East Bengal attack force impressively in the Esqueda’s absence, contributing vital strikes..
Even though the Mexican is back from his injury and is likely to make an appearance against Mohun Bagan, Jaime Santos and Jobby Justin’s performance will be the key to East Bengal’s success in the Kolkata Derby.