Sunil Chhetri and Mehtab Hossain are two names which have reverberated around the Indian footballing circles for more than a decade now. Not only have they played for the best clubs in the country, but have served them with distinction.
Both are known to be passionate on the field and not giving any quarter for the opponents - qualities which make them indispensable to a football team. Chhetri is the star of the Indian National team and Bengaluru FC while Mehtab Hossain retired from International football a while back but continues to be a key player for his domestic teams.
The two stalwarts are good rivals on the field and several interesting moments have been thrown up. While Mehtab is known for riling up the opposition's best players regardless of their reputation with his relentless tackling and an uncanny ability to get under their skin (ask Dimitar Berbatov and Eugeneson Lyngdoh), Chhetri is not one to shy away from a confrontation despite being best known for his superlative skills in the opposition box.
One such incident even changed the course of the match earlier this year when Bengaluru FC took on East Bengal at the Barasat stadium in last season's I-League.
Now, with Chhetri's Bengaluru FC set to host Mehtab's Jamshedpur FC on Thursday, the stage is set for these two warriors to go at it once again for two teams in their debut campaigns in a new battlefield.
In all probability, the battle between the two 'terriers' on the field will be the one that determines the course of the war on Thursday.
When Bengaluru FC, plying their trade in the I-League last season, went to Kolkata to take on East Bengal in what was their first big game of the season, Mehtab and Chhetri caught the attention with an altercation that would ultimately decide the tie in the Red and Golds' favour.
Roca's team, flying high, dominated the game in the first 20 minutes before taking the lead through CK Vineeth, much to the shock of the home crowd. However, East Bengal managed an equaliser against the run of play, knocking back the confident Blues. Enter Mehtab, who got into a tussle with Chhetri around the half-hour mark with both sets of players trying to calm down the duo.
That proved to be a rallying point for East Bengal players, who started pressing with intensity and purpose and put Roca's men on the back foot. Needless to say, East Bengal managed to net a winner, courtesy of Robin Singh and won the match.
Chhetri has also had his moments against Mehtab, with one example being the 5-0 hammering meted out to Kerala Blasters in last season's ISL by Mumbai City FC - a game more famous for a hat-trick by Diego Forlan.
Chhetri was involved for Mumbai while Mehtab had a very poor game by his standards, with the former scoring a moral victory. In fact, if we take the last five meetings where Chhetri and Mehtab have come up against each other, Chhetri has won three of those.
On Thursday, one can be rest assured that Steve Coppell will have his midfield destroyer on the case of the most influential Bengaluru FC players and we should see this healthy rivalry between two of the biggest contributors to Indian football flare up again.