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Mohun Bagan v East Bengal

I-League 2018-19: Will Sony Norde be the difference maker in Kolkata derby?

7:55 AM IST 24/01/19
Sony Norde Mohun bagan
The Haitian has been the livewire in Bagan's attack since coming back from injury...

Title race, points table, statistics - all take a backseat when it comes to the Kolkata derby. A stage where heroes turn villains, fan favourites come under intense scrutiny and any player can get catapulted to the highest pedestal, all within a span of 90 minutes.

Sony Norde has not been part of the last three derbies and all eyes will be on the Haitian international on January 27.

The Mariners are banking on Norde to win the bragging rights which they surrendered just over a month back. And why not? He is in scintillating form since his return from injury and was instrumental in the two successive wins over Minerva Punjab and NEROCA respectively. It was his individual brilliance that not only handed Bagan the much-needed six points but also the belief that they can still turn it around.

With Henry Kisekka and Aser Dipanda going through a lean patch of form, Norde has to bear added responsibility against East Bengal. Moreover, midfield metronome Omar Elhusseiny is likely to be relegated to the bench on Sunday and might only be used in the later stages of the match as he has been nursing a leg injury sustained against NEROCA.

In the absence of Omar, Bagan's midfield will be lacking thrust in the attacking third as both Yuta Kinowaki and Darren Caldeira are not known for their creative qualities. This means Norde must step up to the task of being the creator and feed Kisekka and Dipanda upfront.

Under Khalid Jamil, he has started on the right flank but eventually returned to his favourite left wing with the introduction of Sheikh Faiaz. Nevertheless, he has been most effective while playing through the centre in the past two matches.

Against Minerva, Norde's down the middle run drew the centre-backs towards him which created space behind the defenders to slide in a through ball for an unmarked Dipanda who did the needful. Whereas versus NEROCA, he single-handedly galloped right through the centre of the park before finishing past an out-stretched Lalit Thapa in the far-bottom corner. So it will not be surprising if he operates behind the two strikers allowing Abhishek Ambekar more space on the flanks for his overlaps.

"I believe in miracles. There is still time to do something positive. If we give our best it will be difficult to stop us. In these situations I like to believe that if we play well then we can hope for a miracle," Norde was quoted saying after a practice session on Bagan's chances to win the title.

Well, the century-old club might need a miracle to lift silverware at the end of the campaign but in the mean time, a professional and calculative performance should be enough to pick up a much-needed win against East Bengal.