Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal - Shadow of the 1st leg looms large on reverse fixture
The winter is about to leave West Bengal but another Kolkata derby has appeared with its entire craze once again due to which the Kolkata dwellers have started to shiver from football fever once again. This is the only event which can divide the people of cultural capital of the country into two parts.
The game of 9th February will be grabbing a lot of eye balls after the abrupt and controversial end of the first leg match, due to which Mohun Bagan have faced some dire consequences.
This is the second encounter of this season between the two Kolkata giants. The first clash between the two sides was abandoned after first half when Mohun Bagan refused to restart the match after half time due to the fury of Kolkata crowd which led to one of their key players, Syed Rahim Nabi getting seriously injured by a missile pelted from the crowd. Later AIFF declared East Bengal a clear 3-0 winner of that abandoned match. Moreover, all the points till that match which Mohun Bagan accumulated, were deducted and they had to pay a heavy amount of compensation also as a result of their actions.
Three months have passed since that incident, gallons of water has flown by the river Ganges and the bitter rivalry between these two sides has become much more fierce following the incidents of their previous encounter.
Right now, both the sides are fighting for completely different and contrasting goals. While the Green and Maroon side are fighting to survive relegation, the Red and Gold brigade are aiming to win the championship.
Prior to this match, both sides are looking heavily balanced, having won their last encounters in convincing fashion.
After a gap of few months, Mohun Bagan are back on their winning streak, notching up their first win in their curtailed campaign against the giant killers ONGC by a 3-1 margin. The more important thing is that Odafa and Tolgay, the two main weapons of coach Karim Bencharifa, scored in that match. After that, in a domestic league match, Mohun Bagan hammered another local giant killer Techno Aryan by a 4-1 margin where Odafa and Tolgay both found the net once again.
Meanwhile, East Bengal edged past Pailan Arrows narrowly by a 2-1 margin in their last I-League encounter which guided them to the top of the table once again. Currently, they have 39 points from 19 matches while Churchill Brothers are still on 38 points after the 17th round. Curchill Brothers’ defeat against Sporting Clube last Friday and the absence of key players like Bilal in defence, who left for his country and Beto in midfield due to injury, has presented a great opportunity for East Bengal in the upcoming matches.
Following their last I-League match, the Red and Gold side also won their domestic league match against Eastern Railway easily by a dominating 4-1 margin.
If we keep the points aside and analyse the current conditions and standings of both the sides, we see that both of them are prepared in a similar fashion for the big clash. Moreover, apart from Manandeep Singh’s card problem, there aren’t any injuries or problematic issues for both these sides.
It’s going to be the battle of life and death for the two giants from different perspectives. If East Bengal wins, they will push themselves 3 steps further ahead towards the holy grail of Indian football. On the other hand, if Mohun Bagan loses, they will move towards the darker side of relegation. While East Bengal is leading the table, after the penalty, Mohun Bagan is standing at the bottom of the table with only 5 points in their hand from 14 matches.
So, from this point of view, a win is compulsory for the both sides considering their respective goals.
Without a doubt, it can be stated that the attacking line of Mohun Bagan is far better than East Bengal but unfortunately, there is not any activity in the midfield for the Green and Maroon side for supplying the ball to those goal getters. The condition of their defence-line is also very poor and can’t be trusted to hold the lead if their side scores before.
In later stages, Mohun Bagan has tried to do damage control by bringing in Quinton Jacobs from Salgaocar, who was quite impressive in the last two matches and Sushant Matthew from their arch-rivals, who has also provided notable service in last two fixtures.
Meanwhile, if we go through the East Bengal defence, then we get the best composed defence of the country which has conceded the least number of goals in this I-League season so far.
However, the attacking line of East Bengal is a concern and they will miss the service of Manandeep Singh. They will depend heavily on the experienced Chidi Edeh and newly recruited Australian Andrew Barisic who is not yet tested against any big opponent.
This is also going to be a battle of two experienced coaches – Karim Bencharifa of Mohun Bagan and James Morgan of East Bengal, both being heavily experienced and witnessed both sides of the coin.
While Karim, along with the entire Mohun Bagan camp will heavily bank on the trio of Odafa, Tolgay and Nabi, Morgan’s East Bengal side will heavily rely on the Penn, Mehtab and Chidi combination.
The referees’ panel of this derby will consist of Santosh Kumar, Sri Krishna, Mohammed Kamil and Dinesh Nair. Sri Krishna is tipped to be with the one with the whistle.
This time, Mohun Bagan will host the derby and they have raised the price of the tickets more than thrice. Also, after the incidents of the previous derby, they have taken lots of security measures to prevent any kind of violence on the ground.
For the very first time in Indian football, the I-League authorities under AIFF are sending a security officer to the match.