East Bengal find themselves eight points adrift the league leaders Chennai City FC although they do have a game in-hand. On Sunday, the Red and Gold brigade will be up against arch rivals Mohun Bagan hoping to clinch three points and also make an important stride towards winning their maiden I-League title.
Coach Alejandro Menendez acknowledged that the Green and Maroon are a difficult team to play against. He also mentioned that Chennai City could drop points given that they have some tough fixtures coming up.
“Mohun Bagan is a difficult match. We are focusing on the next match. All the teams are difficult who are fighting for the title. But we are focusing only on our next match. We have to get full points to fight for the title. Many teams are fighting for the title. Chennai have a tough fixture. Teams will drop points and therefore we have to focus on ourselves,” said Menendez.
He also spoke highly of Mohun Bagan who have won their last two matches under the tutelage of Khalid Jamil, who was incidentally East Bengal’s coach last season.
“Mohun Bagan is a big club. They have good players. The challenge is to stop them. In these kind of matches, the small details will make the difference. We have nothing special planned for Sony Norde.”
On being pressed to share his thoughts on Norde and whether he though the Haitian was a special talent, Menendez gave a lukewarm response.
“We will see that on Sunday.”
The former Racing Santander coach stated that his team are very much ready for the much anticipated derby and that Enrique Esqueda is fit for the weekend’s clash.
“I think we have played many matches and we are ready for the game. Enrique is fit for the game. We are trying to play our normal game. The players try to do their best in every match. It is not something different,” he said.
He also explained the reason as to why the club chose to undergo training at the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) ground ahead of the derby.
“The main reason is that the players need to focus before the big match. Many fans come to have a look which can be a distraction. Also for the strategy and set-pieces, it is necessary to do closed door practice sessions.”
Manoj Mohammed is suspended for the derby but Menendez is confident that his squad has enough depth to cover for the full-back.
"We have a good squad who can fill Manoj's boots. They have to give their all and do their job. We are not thinking about who cannot play but only on those who can play on Sunday."