It’s time for the ‘Kolkata Derby’, the greatest showpiece in Indian football. Both the teams lost their respective opening fixtures in the Calcutta Football League, contrary to any other season that we can recall. On top of that, East Bengal bowed out in the semi-final of the recently concluded Durand Cup, while Mohun Bagan lost in the final.
But that doesn’t change the intensity of the match as the ‘City of Joy’ will come alive on Sunday afternoon. More than 60,000 people will turn up at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium, while millions will be glued to the television sets and online streaming websites from around the globe.
The morale in East Bengal has taken a huge beating after the disastrous end to the Durand Cup campaign against Gokulam Kerala FC last week. But they have pulled themselves up after the debacle. East Bengal produced a dominating performance against Aryan FC earlier this week, winning by a 3-0 margin.
With Jaime Santos Colado and Pintu Mahata in red hot form, they are more prepared in the playmaking area than their rivals for the marquee clash. Players like Boithang Haokip and Bidyasagar Singh can score goals for the team. Pintu Mahata has been ruthless in the Calcutta Football League so far and he is a potential threat to his former club. Kassim Aidara provides the perfect balance at the heart of the midfield. Alejandro is unlikely to start with Spanish striker Marcos de la Espada.
Marti Crespi has been playing regularly for the past few games and he may get a nod ahead of Borja Gomez Perez in the defence. Mehtab Singh will start in the middle alongside him. Young Manoj Mohammed will be playing in his regular side-back position, while former Bagan player Abhishek Ambekar will be operating from the other side.
Mohun Bagan registered their first win in the Calcutta League a few days ago after the initial hiccup. The major problem in the Bagan camp has been their back four. Kibu Vicuna’s men have conceded in six out of their eight matches this season. Most of their defenders have failed to deliver. Fran Morante has been the most consistent player for them in that area. All eyes will be on Lalramchullova, who is all set to play against his former team for the first time.
On a positive note,Mohun Bagan has a settled midfield,’ with Joseba Beitia acting as the main man. Sheikh Sahil or Imran Khan is likely to play alongside the Spaniard. Both the Indians have been impressive this season. Nongdamba Naorem, who netted the winner in the previous match, will operate from the left-wing. On the other side, Alexander Romario Jesuraj or Britto PM may start.
Spanish playmaker Fran Gonzalez has also shown sparks of brilliance in this season. Coming on as a substitute in the semi-final of the Durand Cup, he provided two assists in quick succession. Kibu might be introduced in the latter part of the game if required. As far as the forward line is concerned, Salva Chamorro will start upfront with VP Suhair.
Jaime Santos Colado
The Spaniard has by far been the most effective footballer for the Red and Gold brigade. Colado has been the main initiator of East Bengal’s attacks, he possesses excellent ball control and skills. East Bengal roped him in last season and was retained by the management for another year. The onus will be on the foreigner to feed the balls to the forwards in the derby.
The winger will be playing his first match against his former team, Mohun Bagan. Pintu scored a goal for the Green and Maroon brigade in the last Kolkata Derby that was played in the Calcutta Football League. He will be looking forward to re-creating a similar feat for his new employers this weekend. So far, the youngster has played eye-catching and equally effective football. He brings a lot of pace in his game, which is a real concern for Bagan’s defence in the upcoming fixture.
Special mention: Abhishek Ambekar, Bidyasagar Singh
Even when the entire team failed to deliver, the Spanish recruit has been able to bring some flow into their game. Beitia is commander-in-chief in the midfield for Mohun Bagan and also the most important player for them.
Beitia has been the most hard-working player for the century-old club. The former Athletic Bilbao player constructs the movements from the midfield and also acts as a blocker when he moves down the pitch.
Playing on loan from Kerala Blasters FC, Nongdamba Naorem was a smart buy for Mohun Bagan this season. His pace is hard to contend with for any defender. Operating from the left-wing, the livewire often haunts the opponents' box with his trickery.
It is handy to have a player like Nongdamba who performs consistently in every game. He scored the winner in Bagan’s 2-1 win over BSS Sporting Club earlier this week. The Manipuri player can make a difference against East Bengal.
Special mention: Fran Gonzalez, Sheikh Sahil
Predicted starting line-ups
Mirshad (GK), Lalthuammawia Ralte, Manoj Mohammed, Marti Crespi, Mehtab Singh, Abhishek Ambekar, Kassim Aidara, Lalrindika Ralte, Pintu Mahata, Jaime Santos Colado, Boithang Haokip, Bidyasagar Singh
Debjit Majumder (GK), Arijit Bagui, Fran Morante, Gurjinder Kumar, Lalramchullova, Joseba Beitia, Imran Khan/Sheikh Sahil, Britto PM/Jesuraj, Nongdamba Naorem, Suhair VP, Salva Chamorro
East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan
Date: 1st September 2019
Kick-off: 3:00 PM IST
Live Stream: Sadhna News, Sadhna News YouTube channel
Venue: Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata
We are expecting a close encounter between the two historic clubs, but East Bengal might edge past their arch-rivals looking at the recent form.
Predicted score: Mohun Bagan 1-2 East Bengal