Aizawl FC and East Bengal will lock horns in a quarter-final clash of the 2018 Super Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, on Sunday.
The two teams played each other in the I-League twice this season but there was no victor on both occasions. They played out a goalless draw in January after a 2-2 stalemate at the start of the season.
"East Bengal's attack and defence has improved since then and they have also roped an experience technical director (Subhash Bhowmick). When Aizawl played them in the I-League, the coach (Paulo Meneses) and the tactics were different. So I'm only thinking about the matches after the time I took over," Aizawl coach Santosh Kashyap told reporters.
On the Mizoram-based outfit loss last Thursday in the AFC Cup against Bengaluru, Kashyap said, "We have had a tight schedule but the loss won't be a mental block for us as we are totally prepared. We will try to give it our best shot."
Despite conceding twice after taking the lead as many times, Aizawl defeated reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champions Chennaiyin FC on penalties, with the 51-year-old claimed that his side had what it took to beat East Bengal in regulation time.
"We scored twice in the last match. So definitely we have the capability as we too have fantastic players with scoring abilities, like (Leonce) Dodoz, Andrei (Ionescu), Mapuia (Lalkhawpuimawia). The young M-Ka (H. Lalmuankima) is also back. He is also very talented. We will not wait for the tie-breaker," Kashyap asserted.
The former Rangdajied United and Royal Wahingdoh man-in-charge was asked the secret behind three of the eight teams from the north-eastern region, namely Shillong Lajong and NEROCA FC besides Aizawl, for making it thus far in the ongoing Super Cup.
"To be honest, I have not thought about teams from the northern (or north-eastern) region doing well or not. We are just taking one match at a time and we did well. I think the top teams are under pressure. For example, in our last match, Chennaiyin being ISL champions had to perform better where we were like the underdogs. So it was an advantage for us. We won that match and moved forward.
"It's the same situation here," Kashyap continued. "East Bengal brought in the top coaches and the best players but couldn't win the league (I-League) this season. So again the pressure is on them to win the Super Cup. So I believe it's an advantage for us again and we will try to put more pressure on them to move to the next level."
Aizawl's two-goal hero in the match against Chennaiyin, Andrei Ionescu added, "We respect them (East Bengal) in terms of football and fairplay, but we will go on the pitch to win. We will not look at the names and numbers of the other team, just like we did in the last game. We faced the game (against Chennaiyin) with a positive mentality and showed that we can win. So we will do the same tomorrow (Sunday)."
With regard to the 4 PM IST kick-off, the Romanian commented, "We were very happy, but we have to forget that game as we lost (against Bengaluru FC) two days ago. We now face East Bengal who also played two days ago. So physically, I think we are on the same level. The boys and the coach are confident we can win."