The first Kolkata Derby of the 2018/19 season is upon us as arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan lock horns in the eighth round fixture of the 2018 Calcutta Football League (CFL) Premier Division ‘A’ on September 2.
The high voltage ‘Super Sunday’ clash involves a battle between two tacticians from two different generations. While the seasoned Subhash Bhowmick will lead East Bengal, the less experienced Sankarlal Chakraborty will guide the Green and Maroons.
Interestingly, Sankarlal had joined Mohun Bagan back in 2014 as the club’s assistant coach. Bhowmick was the technical director of the club at that time. It was the veteran coach who had selected Sankarlal and opened the doors of a big club for the rookie manager.
It has been only a season that Sankarlal has started managing the club as the chief coach. His experience as a head coach is minimal compared to Bhowmick.
Curiously, even though Sankarlal started his professional coaching career under Subhash Bhowmick, his philosophy is completely different from that of his master. While Bhowmick prefers his team to keep the ball on the ground, Sankarlal advocates long ball and crosses from the flanks.
We have seen how the full-backs and the wingers play a very crucial role for Bagan. Arijit Bagui has developed well under Chakraborty. The full-back moves up and down the right flank impressively and tries to whip in inch-perfect crosses into the penalty box for the strikers.
Both Bagui and Abhishek Ambekar, who joined the club this season, play a crucial role down the flanks for Bagan. Often, teams have tried to stifle Bagan's wings.
Compared to that, Subhash Bhowmick’s East Bengal prefers to keep the ball on the ground. Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna who has the licence to roam freely in the midfield is the architect of all forays forward. His movements with the ball and ability to create defence-splitting passes are the crux of all East Bengal attacks.
We have seen Bhowmick changing formations during a game on multiple occasions during this year’s CFL. The team starts in a 4-1-4-1 formation but as the match progresses, they are prone to suddenly changing to a 4-1-3-2 formation with Amna moving upfront beside Joby Justin.
In this formation, full-backs Samad Ali Mallick and Lalram Chullova play crucial a role. They constantly overlap down the flanks and send crosses for the attackers inside the opposition box. So far both Chullova and Mallick’s crosses have been on point.
While the East Bengal defenders have to be vigilant against the constant threat down the flanks, Mohun Bagan need to nullify the threats created by the East Bengal midfield.
Some key battles to look forward to in the Kolkata Derby on Sunday
Aser Dipanda and Henry Kisekka vs Johnny Acosta and Mehtab Singh
Aser Dipanda is currently the top goal scorer in the CFL 2018. The Cameroonian forward, who was arguably the best player for Mohun Bagan last season, is still the club’s main man when it comes to scoring goals. Along with new recruit Henry Kisekka, the duo impose great threat over the opposition. East Bengal are likely to field Costa Rican defender Johnny Acosta Zamora in the big match. It is up to the man who marked Neymar in the World Cup just two months ago and his partner Mehtab Singh to fight it out against the dynamic duo of Mohun Bagan.
Mahmoud Al Amna vs Mehtab Hossain
Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty is yet to start veteran midfielder Mehtab Hossain in any of the first seven CFL matches. But it seems that his experience will be utilised by the coach on Sunday to nullify the threats created by the East Bengal midfield. Mahmoud Al Amna is the focal point in the Red and Golds’ midfield and he could be marked by the experienced Mehtab.
Arijit Bagui and Abhishek Ambekar vs Lalram Chullova and Samad Ali Mallick
All four full-backs from either side have been proved to be lethal down the flanks. Their pacey runs, pin-point crosses have been extremely dangerous for their opponents. It will be interesting to see how these full-backs keep a check on their counterparts.