It has been a stuttering start to the I-League campaign for both the Kolkata giants as they have collected only nine points from six matches.
There were astronomical expectations amongst the East Bengal fans after the appointment of Alejandro Menendez and were hoping to witness a brand of football that has long eluded Kolkata. But it is safe to say that they have been left disappointed as the Spanish tactician is yet to settle down in this new country and the players are only gradually adapting to the methodology of their new coach.
Similarly, Mohun Bagan have also been far from fluent in their opening six games. After a 3-0 thrashing by Churchill Brothers, they came back strongly against Chennai City FC but floundered in the last quarter of the match allowing their opponents to salvage a 1-1 draw.
So will it be individual brilliance that decides the fate of this marquee clash? Maybe.
Mohun Bagan is clearly ahead in the amount of firepower they have up front. With Henry Kisekka, Sony Norde and Aser Dipanda they have one of the most illustrated attacks in I-League. They will be up against an East Bengal defence which has looked solid on most occasions but is also prone to conceding due to lack of concentration at crucial junctures.
Jhonny Acosta was relegated to the bench against Gokulam Kerala and Salam Ranjan Singh was tested at the heart of defence alongside Borja Gomez. And the new defensive pairing did pass the test with flying colours. Lalram Chullova and Manoj Mohammad have also fared decently in their respective full-back positions. East Bengal's key to success will be their fullbacks. If Chullova and Manoj can make Mohun Bagan's flanks ineffective then half the battle will be won.
Chakraborty likes to build up play through the wide areas, be it by pouring crosses into the box or playing short passes to unlock opposition's defence. If Sony Norde is declared fit on Sunday morning, he can be the potential game-changer. It will be an exciting battle between Chullova and Norde as both the players have been in dazzling form in the recent past.
But the wing backs are also major outlets going forward for Bagan. Arijit Bagui and Abhishek Ambekar go on constant overlaps to support the wingers. It has paid dividends on multiple occasions and to recap. it was Bagui who provided both the assists from the right wing during the 2-2 draw in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) encounter between the two clubs.
So Danmawia Ralte and Jamie Colado will have their defensive duties cut out as well. Both the wingers need to drop deep to weather the onslaughts of the opposition full-backs.
A lot will depend on the midfield battle between Kassim Aidara and Omar Elhusseiny as well. If Omar is allowed to string the passes from just above the half-way mark, Bagan will gain attacking momentum which becomes difficult to contain, as happened against Chennai City. It was Omar's substitution that opened the floodgates for Akbar Nawas' men allowing them to almost snatch another three points.
On the other hand, injury to Enrique Esqueda has further complicated matters for Menendez. With just Jobby Justin and Vidyasagar Singh at his disposal, he is most likely to opt for a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Justin will have the onus to lead the lines and will be supported by Colado and Danmawia from the wings. Lalrindika Ralte will have to provide the creative impetus from midfield and his knack to have a crack from distance might come in handy on Sunday. If Didika is able to bring out his A game on Sunday then Justin can rest assured that there will be no shortage of supply for him to test Shilton Paul in goal.
But all eyes will be on debutante Colado who will start his first game in East Bengal colours and that too in a Kolkata derby. The 23-year-old Spanish winger has the pace to burn and also the tricks to dribble past a defender. In the absence of Esqueda, the Red and Gold faithful are pinning their hopes on the Spaniard to lit up the renovated colosseum. Justin has been good in the air and if Colado is able to put in some good crosses from the wide areas then Bagan's defence might be in trouble.
It is more than three points which are at stake on Sunday. Honour, pride and maybe somebody's job. Which team will celebrate Christmas early? More importantly, who will climb the ladder and challenge the likes of Chennai City and Churchill Brothers. The drama unfolds on Sunday evening.