East Bengal and Mohun Bagan reach Siliguri, I-League derby day draws closer

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Ivan Bukenya is in quest of scoring more goals as both teams reached Siliguri for I-League's first Kolkata Derby this season...

Just one full day remains between I-League 2016/17's first Kolkata Derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan scheduled to take place in Siliguri on Sunday.

Both the Kolkata giants reached the North Bengal hub on Thursday afternoon. Mostly in high spirits, some potential derby debutants were completely unfazed while some, particularly Subhasish Bose of Mohun Bagan could not manage to crack a single smile - completely focused.

The Mariners boarded a 1:30 pm flight which got delayed for 30 minutes as Sanjoy Sen and his boys' aircraft remained stationary on the tarmac before take off. The think-tank of Sen, assistant Shankarlal Chakraborty and team manager Satyajit Chatterjee sat together during the 45-minute flight and were seen sharing a few thoughts on a lighter note.

Raynier Fernandes was even congratulated by Chakraborty on his bag arriving first on the luggage belt. Eduardo Ferreira did make the trip and the defender who was last seen on the pitch on 24th January will most probably start on Sunday having recovered from a waist injury.

In complete contrast to Mohun Bagan's low-key departure from the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose terminal in Kolkata, East Bengal were greeted with much fanfare. The Red and Golds arrived in their team bus, obliging fans for selfies as they entered the gates.

That momentum was carried forward to Siliguri where a convoy of a dozen motorcycle-clad fans escorted them to their hotel after they landed at the Bagdogra airport at around 4:30 pm.

Ivan Bukenya interacted with the media before he rushed towards his hotel room. The Ugandan was overwhelmed by the show of support from the fans but looked very composed heading into his first derby.

"The derby mood had set it even before the season started. It was the only thing I was hearing about from fans and sometimes even the players", he testified.

"Look, the derby will have the same importance as other matches and we are ready. It is a team game, not only about me. It is true that we have managed clean-sheets this season and also in the derby we will aim for a clean-sheet", the Ugandan added.

When asked if he would like to be the hero, adding to his tally of three goals, the centre-half was assertive. "I look to score always. I would want to score if possible", he said.

East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan chose to answer with a lot of humility when asked about the cross-town rivals.

"I don't think we are ahead of them (Mohun Bagan) in any way. You cannot term a team which has seven wins and one draw in the season so far behind us."

"The derby is just a matter of three points. For me, we have more 33 points to play for after this to win the league", the former Bournemouth player commented, clearly focusing on silverware.

'Home' side East Bengal are scheduled to train at the Kanchenjunga Stadium at 9 am on the eve of the game as Mohun Bagan have been allotted the 11 am slot to wrap up their pre-match drills.