After succumbing to a 2-1 defeat against Chennai City FC in their first home match, East Bengal will look to return to winning ways when they take on Aizawl FC on Saturday at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl.
Head coach Alejandro Menendez minced no words to make it clear that his team is ready to get back to winning ways and does not believe that his midfield lacks ammunition in the absence of Mahmoud Al-Amna.
"We will play to win. We lost the last match but we played well and so we can win tomorrow. Enrique Esqueda is fit and ready to play along with the entire team. We have been creating chances and now we have to look to convert those chances. We have scored six goals in three matches so it (the midfield) is not a problem," stated the coach.
Several former Aizawl FC players, Lalramchullova, Brandon Vanlalremdika, Danmawia Ralte and Al Amna are now plying their trade in East Bengal which might benefit the Kolkata giants. But the coach played his cards close to his heart as he chose not to reveal whether the Mizo boys will feature in the starting XI.
Menendez shared his vision for the club where he spoke about long-term goals and also about the challenges that he has come across in Indian football.
"In Indian football, there are some things which are similar to European football and there are some differences as well. I think the mentality of the players is different and their way of adapting to our methodology. We also have to adapt to this place. It is a long process and we are working on it. We are trying to build something for the future and not only for the short-term," said the 52-year old manager.
On the other hand, his opposite number Gift Raikhan is upbeat about turning things around for Aizawl FC as they sit 11th in the league table with just two points from five matches.
"We are looking for a win. We had more time to prepare for East Bengal. But some players are injured and not fit. Govin (Singh) and Kareem (Nurain) will not be there. We have to trust our local players. After MPL we got full ground for preparation which is great. So happy with preparation and yet unhappy with the injuries. We are last in the table. Sorry for the poor results.
I am focusing on defence. Tomorrow (Saturday) if we defend well then we can surely score some goals upfront. I have studied East Bengal. I have I-League debutants who will feature in tomorrow's match. They have their own problems and so we have ours. It is a big challenge for us tomorrow," stated the former NEROCA FC coach.
Although he will be missing key figures in defence he has confidence in the local boys that they will be able to step up to the occasion. Ansumana Kromah has been poor in front of goal but the coach chose to defend his striker and asked for patience as he is new to the club.
"Kromah is a good and humble player. He needs to trust his teammates. We have scored against Mohun Bagan. There is no difference between our players and the stars who play in Kolkata. Kromah has to trust Valpuia and others as he not playing with Katsumi or Didika anymore. It is a mental thing. We signed him very late. Alfred is the only player who has continued. East Bengal match will be the stepping stone for us to script a comeback," said Raikhan.
A win for East Bengal will help them regain their second spot whereas three points for Aizawl FC will catapult them to the seventh position for the time being.