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I-League 2017: Predicted XI for East Bengal

Trevor Morgan East Bengal
Trevor Morgan will look to lead his side to the title
Abhranil Roy

A new year is here, and so is another season of the Indian League, or the I-League, as it is popularly called. The 20th edition of the league has several strong contenders, namely Bengaluru FC, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and DSK Shivajians.

With the All India Football Federation determined to merge both the I-League and the ISL from next year, it could well be the last time we see the league in its unadulterated form. As such, this is possibly the last chance for several of the clubs to lift the trophy.

For the Red and Gold brigade, there is added pressure, since, despite being a giant in the local football circuit, they haven’t won the league since 2004. They have come agonisingly close quite a few times but it has always gone wrong for them in the final lap of the race. Last season, they finished third behind Bengaluru and Mohun Bagan, but they led the table at the half-way stage.

Also read: I-League 2017: East Bengal vs. Aizawl FC - Preview

The Bengal club have put together a very good squad this season, and in Trevor James Morgan, they have a coach who knows the ins and outs of Indian football. This is the Australian’s second stint at East Bengal, and he has been given complete freedom to pick and choose players of his choice.

Problems still persist, though, as there are question marks on the fitness of some players as well as the sudden disappearance of Simon Molatby, the club’s physio. However, Morgan is confident that his team will go all the way.

Let’s take a look at the possible names that could make it to the playing XI once all the footballers are fit.


Formation( 4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper – Subhashish Roy Chowdhury

Image result for subhasish roy chowdhury
Chowdhury is one of the most experienced keepers in the country

Subhashish Roy Chowdhury will be expected to start in goal for East Bengal. He is easily one of the most experienced and consistent goalkeepers in the country, and he will be looking to add the I-League trophy to his already glittering cabinet, which also includes the ISL trophy which we won with Atletico de Kolkata in 2014.

Gifted with an amazing shot stopping ability and a cool head, the former Mahindra United goalkeeper will be looking to lead his side from the back.

Defenders

Image result for robin gurung
Gurung is growing in stature with each game

Centre-backs – Ivan Bukenya and Arnab Mondal

Ivan Bukenya and Arnab Mondal will be marshalling the defence for East Bengal. The towering Ugandan, who is one of the tallest players in the league and the Indian, who is one of the best ball-playing defenders in the country, will be key to Morgan’s plans.

The Australian was on the lookout for a replacement for the legendary Uga Okpara, and in Bukenya, he may have finally found the answer. Although neither of them are fit and are unlikely to start the first match against Aizawl FC, it is almost certain that we will see this combination for most parts of the season.

Anwar Ali and Gurwinder Singh are also excellent backup options for them.

Full-backs – Robert Lalthlamuana and Robin Gurung

Robert Lalthlamuana and Robin Gurung are East Bengal’s first choice fullbacks, with the former captaining the side this season. Robert has a huge reputation as a marauding left-back with a deadly left foot, while Robin came to the forefront while playing for NorthEast United in the ISL.

Robert is unlikely to start against Aizawl and so Narayan Das may take his place. Robin is fit and will look to showcase his mettle on the right-hand side and earn a call-up to Constantine’s national team.

Midfielders

Image result for mehtab hossain
Mehtab was in great touch in the CFL and ISL

Defensive Midfield – Rowllin Borges and Mehtab Hossein

Rowllin Borges and Mehtab Hossein are expected to form the double pivot in midfield, and between the two of them, they have the ability to break down any opposition play. The veteran Mehtab has been in fine touch in the Calcutta Football League and the ISL, while Borges is easily one of India’s most exciting midfield prospects.

Gifted with exceptional vision and superb passing range, the duo will be a vital cog in the East Bengal midfield. Both of them are fit and are expected to start the home game on Saturday.

Attacking midfieldAbhinas Ruidas, Wedson Anselme and Jackichand Singh

Abhinas Ruidas, Wedson Anselme and Jackichand Singh will feature as the attacking trio. While Ruidas will start off on the left wing and new recruit Jackichand on the right, Wedson will play centrally.

Both the wingers are blessed with pace and guile, and they will need to deliver if East Bengal are to stay relevant in the title chase till the end. Fortunately, there is no dearth of options for them upfront, as both Romeo Fernandes and David Lalrinmuawa are equally adept in the wide positions and can come off the bench anytime.

Wedson will be expected to be the creative maestro in the middle, and pick up all the second balls as well as create space for the striker upfront.

Striker – Willis Plaza

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Willis will lead the line for East Bengal

Willis Plaza will be the target man for the Red and Gold brigade up front, and he will be looking to strike a good understanding with Wedson. The Trinidad and Tobago forward has scored a lot of goals in his native land, and Morgan will be hoping he can continue his rich vein of form in India as well.

In Nikhil Poojary and Thongkhosiem Haokip, they also have excellent young alternatives in case Plaza hits a bad patch or gets injured. Indeed, either Haokip or Nikhil will start the match against Aizawl FC, since Plaza is yet to prove his match fitness.


Full squad

Goalkeepers: Rehenesh TP, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Abhilash Paul, Dibyendu Sarkar, Luis Barreto

Defenders: Ivan Bukenya, Arnab Mandal, Gurwinder Singh, Anwar Ali, Koushik Sarkar, Robin Gurung, Samad Ali Mallick, Rahul Bheke, Narayan Das, Deepak Kumar, Robert Lalthlamuana

Midfielders: Prohlad Roy, Mehtab Hossain, Rowllin Borges, Romeo Fernandes, David Lalrinmuana, Jackichand Singh, Abhinas Ruidas, Mohammed Rafique, Cavin Lobo, Bikash Jairu

Forwards: Wedson Anselme, Nikhil Poojary, Thongkhosiem Haokip, Willis Plaza, VP Suhair.


Areas of concern and expectations

East Bengal have an exceptionally strong squad on paper, but the squad has barely trained together, so team chemistry might be a big issue. Moreover, few of their key players are carrying niggles from the ISL, and this might turn out to be a huge problem in the 2nd half of the season, just like it was in the last campaign.

Overall, anything short of a title win will be deemed as a failure by both the manager and the fans.

East Bengal kick off their I-League campaign against Aizawl FC on 7th January at the Barasat Stadium at 4:30 pm. Follow the game LIVE, here.

Edited by Staff Editor

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