The national club of India, Mohun Bagan, will seek to build on their newfound zeal to triumph over Bangladeshi opponents Abahani Limited Dhaka on Matchday two of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup on Tuesday, 4th April, 2017.
The Mariners welcome their cross-border Sky Blues rivals to the Bengal capital of Kolkata, under the guise of a Group E tie, where both share a grand total of zero points.
KNOW YOUR RIVALS: Abahani Limited Dhaka
History also strongly envelopes the tie, considering the 2015 I-League champions' strong emotional connect with the capital of Golden Bengal. Mohun Bagan's first foray into the AFC Cup (then called the Asian Club Championship) had come in 1987, where all their group games were played in Dhaka. The Green and Maroon finished second in the group behind Al Rasheed of Iraq, but in the short format only the top team from each group qualified for semi-final finals.
Times have changed and the home side will home Kolkata's Rabindra Sarobar stadium ushers in a new era of beginnings at the continental level. Bagan head into this tie on the back of a mixed record in recent matches. They faced Bengaluru FC at home in the I-League on 1st April and got back to winning ways after four games in all competitions.
Sanjoy Sen is expected to field a second-string side comprising mostly of fringe domestic players. However, the coach will go in with three foreigners - Darryl Duffy the most likely exclusion.
Mohun Bagan would gauge this as a totally different competition altogether but eyes will remain on the players' lead up to the I-League Kolkata derby four days after the game. Kerala-born shot-stopper Shibinraj Kunniyil is expected to make his Mariners bow as Sarthak Golui will be welcomed back into a right full-back role.
Kinshuk Debnath has recovered from his nasty groin tear and will be raring to go. Star pair Katsumi Yusa and Sony Norde will be retained to flare up the flanks. Indian strike duo of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh will be seen starting together after ages.
Sen would maintain the habit of putting Prabir Das onto the pitch in the second half but the former United SC gaffer has ruled out any role for Pritam Kotal and Souvik Chakraborti keeping them fresh for Sunday's game.
Sanjoy Sen - Mohun Bagan are playing for three points against Abahani Limited Dhaka
For the visitors, if losing majority of their first-team in a player exodus at the start of the season was not enough, long-serving centre-half Samad Yussif and veteran midfielder Pranotosh Kumar Das haven't traveled to Kolkata. The Ghanaian defender failed to procure an Indian visa and Das has been granted leave to spend time with his family after his father's death last week.
Drago Mamic, has the experience of defeating Mohun Bagan during his time at Churchill Brothers but the IFA Shield final victory came six seasons ago. With a beleaguered team, the Croat will bank on new recruit Emeka Darlington to strike a partnership with Jonathan Brown upfront.
The Dhanmondi giants seem optimistic of a good showing against a weakened Bagan side but the Kolkata side will be no pushovers as they look to impress after their disappointing 2-1 loss at Bengaluru on the opening matchday.
Abahani went in with a five-man backline but still managed to concede silly goals in their 2-0 defeat at home to Maziya S&RC last month. The lack of games in between will definitely put the Sky Blues on the back foot against a side who will play their 19th game since the turn of the calendar year. Mamic was left unimpressed by Bangladesh's footballing calendar as the Premier League starts in July.
There will be a lot of pride and passion at stake given the bond both these teams share culturally. However, for this occasion, the fight has to be to open their account in the group. The team which loses will certainly put them in a position of fortitude and neither would generally want that.
MOHUN BAGAN A.C.
Injured: Subhasish Bose, Kean Lewis, Pronay Halder, Raynier Fernandes
Key Players: Sony Norde, Katsumi Yusa
ABAHANI LIMITED DHAKA
Injured: None; (Samad Yussif and Pranotosh Kumar Das unavailable)
Key Players: Emeka Darlington, Jonathan Brown