After narrowly missing out last season’s I-League to Chennai City FC, East Bengal is all set to start the new season afresh. The Red and Golds will take on Army Reds in their first match of the Durand Cup, which is also going to be their first match of the season.
For the first time, the prestigious Durand Cup is going to be held in Kolkata, the City that has a rich football history.
The 129th edition will see 16 teams, divided into four groups with the group toppers reaching the semi-final. For the first time, the Indian Super League clubs will participate in this tournament.
The Red and Golds witnessed a somewhat bad season last time. After eight years of monopoly, East Bengal lost their Calcutta Football League supremacy to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and had to finish in the third position.
However, they revamped their side under coach Alejandro Menendez and came out as a different outfit in the I-League. Although the team missed out on the title, their efforts until the last moment won many hearts.
East Bengal has managed to retain their coach, but they have quite a few key players. Last season’s hero Jobby Justin switched his allegiance to ATK, while right-back Lalram Chullova went to Mohun Bagan.
East Bengal retained the service of their star foreigners Borja Gomez Perez, Kassim Aidara and Jaime Santos Colado and managed to acquire Marti Crespi from ISL side Delhi Dynamos.
Though Menendez insisted that he will play the U-19 side for the tournament, but after the pressure from all corners, East Bengal will field their first team. It needs to be seen who takes the field.
The Army Red football team was formerly called Army XI football team and one of the four teams from the Army who are participating in this tournament. Army Red has made six appearances in the Durand Cup, with the last came in 2016. As Army XI, they lifted the trophy in 2015 edition.
Being a team that boasts physically strong and talented footballers, Army Red will be a challenge for every other team. It would take extra effort to get past them.
Borja Gomez Perez (East Bengal)
The central defender was picked by Menendez last season and the Spaniard came out with flying colours.
Throughout the season, Borja led from the front and made a formidable partnership with Johnny Acosta. Since Acosta has departed after the season, it will be interesting to see how Borja takes up the challenge.
Jaime Santos Colado (East Bengal)
Santos came midway into the league and immediately left an impression with his stunning performance in the first leg of Kolkata Derby in last season’s I-League. Santos scored four goals for the club, including one against Mohun Bagan and immensely helped the team with his attacking mindset. He can roam around the midfield freely and have deft touches. Opponents often find it tough to mark him.
DURAND CUP RECORD
East Bengal is the second-best team in this tournament after Mohun Bagan, having won the title 16 times and reached the final 10 times.
The Red and Golds won their first Durand Cup in 1951 and then went on to lift the trophy regularly. However, they’ve won the trophy only twice since the turn of the century, with the last title coming in 2004.
Army Red, formerly Army XI, has made six appearances in the tournament and won the cup only once, in 2005.
East Bengal vs Army Red Football Team
Date: 3 August 2019
Kick-off: 3.00 PM IST
Venue: East Bengal Ground
Live Stream: Addatime App
East Bengal has the edge over their opponents, having one of the best team teams in the tournament. They are technically strong and have the experience of playing together for quite some time. It will have to see how long Army Red keeps the attack away.
Predicted Score: East Bengal 3-0 Army RedPublished 02 Aug 2019, 13:08 IST