Just 2 days to go for the Kolkata derby! More than being just any other ‘Kolkata derby’, I think ‘Clash of the Titans’ sounds better to describe the intensity and rivalry between the two greatest sides of Indian football, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
East Bengal will start Saturday’s game as the favourites since they already ‘won’ the first encounter of this season. Currently enjoying the top position in the league table with 39 points from 19 matches, East Bengal are very much the favourites to win this season’s I-League title. It is quite clear that Trevor James Morgan and his boys will try to give their best to win the derby since a win here will keep Churchill Brothers under huge pressure, who are now in the second position in the table with 38 points from 17 matches.
Though the countdown has already started and the heat of the game has already begun to spread, let’s take a look at how East Bengal can dominate Saturday’s derby:
1. Play your natural game: Not thinking very much about Mohun Bagan’s strike force comprising Tolgay and Odafa, East Bengal should play their natural attacking game from the start of the match. It has been seen a couple of times that if the opponent team dominates the midfield while playing against Mohun Bagan, then it became very tough for Tolgay and Odafa to get the desired supplies from the middle. As Mohun Bagan’s midfield isn’t their strong point, East Bengal should take advantage and dominate the midfield via Mehtab, Penn and Harmanjot Khabra.
2. Start the match with Lalrindika Ralte and Sanju Pradhan: East Bengal’s coach Trevor James Morgan should include Lalrindika Ralte and Sanju Pradhan in the starting XI as both these players are quite comfortable in spreading the game in the the wings. Also, they are capable of making good crosses into the opponent’s box. If Morgan starts with just Chidi up front and allows Penn to support Chidi and also work in the midfield, then it will be difficult for Mohun Bagan’s defence and their midfield to cope with East Bengal.
3. Uga Okpara has to be back at his best: Uga Okpara is the life of East Bengal’s defence. Despite having a good start in this season, this supreme Nigerian defender has been off-colour in some important matches for East Bengal, like against Dempo, Prayag and Churchill Brothers. If Tolgay and Odafa try to build the momentum and go for goals, then East Bengal has to rely deeply on Okpara. If he can manage to play his best, then it will not be too tough for the Red and Gold brigade to keep a clean sheet.
4. Keep the pressure on Mohun Bagan’s dodgy defence: For Mohun Bagan, this season has not been good at all. Just like their attack force, their defence is also very week. As a result, Mohun Bagan concedes goals very easily. Nirmal Chhetri, Rahim Nabi, Meherajuddin are not at their best. Despite thinking very much about the ‘derby’ tag on the game, if East Bengal can go in with an all-out attack policy, then it will not be too hard for Chidi and Penn to torment the Mohun Bagan’s shaky defence.
5. Make suitable substitutions: East Bengal’s coach Trevor James Morgan has to be very cautious about his substitutions and their timing. It has been seen in a couple of big games that he takes a lot of time to bring in substitution. On Saturday, he should not wait for a long time to make substitutions. He should bring Robin or Andrew Barisic as soon as possible, if he needs them.