Reigning champions East Bengal take on Tollygunje Agragami in the first match of the Calcutta Football League (CFL) 2019 on August 3rd at the East Bengal ground.
The Red and Golds will be eyeing their ninth consecutive CFL title this year ahead locking horns against the Manoranjan Bhattacharya-coached Tollygunge.
East Bengal have made several changes this season. They have signed four players from I-League champions Minerva Punjab - Rakshit Dagar, Kamalpreet Singh, Gagandeep Bali and Kassim Aidara. Former East Bengal players Abhra Mondal and Lalrindika Ralte are also back in the side this season after spending a year in the Indian Super League (ISL) at Bengaluru FC and NorthEast United FC respectively.
While former ATK assistant coach Bastob Roy is at the helm of affairs, Subhash Bhowmick will be pulling the strings from his role as the Technical Director.
So far the club has made three foreign signings. Mahmoud Al Amna has been retained from last season. Aidara has joined the team from Minerva and they have Costa Rican Johnny Acosta who represented his nation in the recently concluded World Cup.
Ahead of the season opener, Subhash Bhowmick suggested that other than Joby Justin, who had picked up an injury recently, all his players are fit to start. He also mentioned that even though Al Amna is available, it is highly unlikely that the Syrian midfielder will start against Tollygunje as he does not want him to get injured or tired ahead of the I-League which will be the primary aim for the team.
Bhowmick said, “All my boys are fit ahead of the first match of the season. Kassim Aidara is not available. I do not want Amna to start against Tollygunge Agragami. We need a fully fit Amna in the I-League which is our top most priority this season. Amna will be on the bench and if needed he will take the field. I have spoken to the club officials regarding this and they have agreed.”
Bhowmick spoke highly about their opponents Tollygunje Agragami and also lauded their coach Manoranjan Bhattacharya, who had won the National Football League (NFL) with East Bengal.
“I respect every opposition and Tollygunje is not different. CFL is getting tougher every year. All the teams this year are very strong. I have respect for Manoranjan (Bhattacharya). He is one of those very few Indian coaches who have won the national league.”
Subhash Bhowmick is likely to field his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Rakshit Dagar will be making his debut for East Bengal under the goalpost. Kinshuk Debnath, who joined the club this season from Mohun Bagan, will pair up with Mehtab Singh in the central defence with captain Samad Ali Mullick and Lalrozama Fanai as full-backs.
Kamalpreet Singh and youngster Sanchayan Samaddar should start in the midfield. Bhowmick is likely to deploy Lalrindika Ralte in the number 10 role with Laldanmawia Ralte and Brandon Vanlalremdika on either flank. Gagandeep Bali is expected to start up front as the lone striker.
Possible East Bengal XI (4-2-3-1): Rakshit Dagar; Samad Ali Mullick, Kinshuk Debnath, Mehtab Singh, Larozama Fanai; Kamalpreet Singh, Sanchayan Samaddar; Laldanmawia Ralte, Lalrindika Ralte, Brandon Vanlalremdika; Gagandeep Bali.