I-League 2018-19, East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan: Kolkata Derby a battle between coaches Menendez and Chakraborty
The football fields of Kolkata gets back to the taste of the Derby, as East Bengal and Mohun Bagan comes against each other once again in I-League, on Sunday at the Salt Lake Stadium.
In a refurbishment of the aged rivalry, both the Kolkata giants will compete for pride and point. While a win in the derby is necessary to keep the head high, the Sunday fixture will turn to be key for the clubs as they are tied at points on the table.
The upcoming game, which will be the 348th competitive match between the clubs will also be a tussle between two clever tacticians.
East Bengal has been under the hood, an experienced figure who has been to various grounds in the suits of a manager - Alejandro Menéndez García.
Mohun Bagan hasn't changed much at this department, employing an Indian manager in the form of Sankarlal Chakraborty for the fifth consecutive season. The tactics of the two managers, hailing from different footballing cultures will clash at the Salt Lake soon.
Alejandro Menendez Garcia - East Bengal
Alejandro Garcia is a new name in the Indian soil. The manager's stint at India began recently when the Red and Gold Brigade signed them for the 2018-19 season, this August.
The manager hailing from Spain has around 16 years of managerial experience (including youth teams), mostly at Spain. Menendez had once been the chief at Real Madrid (youth) and Real Madrid Castilla (reserve) teams.
Having spent only three years of his managerial career outside Spain, most would expect the 52-year old to come with the accustomed Spanish style of play.
Unlike foreign managers beginning their services at India, Alejandro Menendez has kept things simple and effective.
He has resorted to the 4-4-2 formation at most times, with almost all the goal scoring hopes on two strikers - Jobby Justin and Enrique Esqueda. The pair hasn't disappointed so far, scoring seven goals together, four from Justin and Esqueda chipping in with the rest.
Another transparent area of the coach's strength is set-pieces. The team has scored four out of their 11 goals this season from restarts. The quality of his attackers to convert the half chances into goals is a true blessing.
The team is mostly seen to use the tactics of going for an attack right from the spot of winning the possession.
The midfielders are rather used as possession winners rather than feeders. A fair share of goals have come from counter attacks and crosses. The manager is making excellent use of the pacy legs the team enjoys at front.
This should be the main area of concern for the Mohun Bagan manager. Framing the plans to place the obstacles for counter attacks would create trouble for the three-time I-League champions.
At East Bengal
Alejandro Menéndez García joined East Bengal by late August. Soon after joining the Kolkata club, the manager played out a friendly against ISL club FC Goa, which they lost 1-0 after a decent effort. The team then flew to Malaysia for the pre-season camp.
After the beginning of the league, the side has so far played six matches, out of which they won three and lost the remaining three. Having nine points against the name, East Bengal are sixth on the table tied on points with Gokulam Kerala FC and rivals Mohun Bagan.
Under Menendez, the team hasn't been bad at performance but is far away from what is expected by the fans. The win against Gokulam Kerala FC after three consecutive losses are giving hopes to the Red and Gold fans, of winning the derby.
Sankarlal Chakraborty - Mohun Bagan
Sankarlal Chakraborty is a coach well familiar with the Indian conditions and has promoted himself through the managerial ranks of the club.
The 42-year old manager is a product of the Tata Football Academy and made his player debut in 1996 for the same club he currently manages. Sankarlal went on to play for East Bengal before retiring from the game in 2002.
He started his coaching career too at Bagan in 2014, as an assistant coach and remained at the position till this season.
The Kolkata-born was promoted to the head coach role prior to the 2018-19 season, following the vacancy at the chief role due to Sanjoy Sen's departure. This is his first full season as a head coach of a club.
His experience with the conditions and atmosphere of the derby will give him an upper hand ahead of the derby.
Sankarlal Chakraborty has some tactics similar to that of his opponent Menendez. But the Mohun Bagan manager's version stands out with the touch of the Indian conditions. Chakraborty fields and draws the strategies with his long time understanding of the players he has been seeing for some time now. \
The formations looks alike at a single glance - 4-4-2. However, he has not stuck to this one alone but has experimented with the single striker plan.
But, the manager looked more effective when playing with two strikers - Henry Kisekka and Aser Dipanda, with support of Sony Norde, attacking through the flanks.
Kisekka-Dipanda pair has shown excellent understanding which the manager will make good use of. Norde is often shown space by these two, to cut into the box - creating the role of a third forward.
Mohun Bagan too boast of their set-piece conversion. Three of their seven goals (40% goals) have come through set-pieces and they have missed few, by inches. That remains a strength for both the sides.
One thing the Bagan manager has done close to perfect is the good use of two wing backs - Abhishek Ambekar and Arijit Bagui. Both have been pulling up good performances, going up the wings and contributing offensively.
There are enough number of crosses being popped into the opposition box, for the defenders to deal with. The overall play, Bagan has been playing under the new coach is developing the game by keeping possession and waiting for opportunities.
East Bengal defenders should be on their toes, to clear any lose ball coming from the Mariners midfielders, which would otherwise be suddenly pounced at.
At Mohun Bagan
Sankarlal Chakraborty has been at the Mohun Bagan camp for five years now. From the assistant coach label, he has raised to the chief and has not been bad for a debutant.
The former midfielder took charge of the team before the Calcutta Premier League and brought home the cup after eight years.
In the I-League, the team started the journey with two draws, but then came back with two wins before losing to Churchil Brothers. However, Bagan has drawn levels with Chennai City in their last match before the big derby.
Currently placed eighth on the table, they have nine points from six matches. As the season progresses, more will be revealed of the new manager's ability to take forward the club and the first examination would be the upcoming East Bengal encounter.