Even with the scars of disappointment from the past two Indian Super League (ISL) seasons still fresh, East Bengal are gearing up for the 2022-23 campaign with rejuvenated hopes. The Red and Gold brigade are one of the country's most revered cultural and footballing emblems, and hopes will once again be high.
In the summer transfer window, East Bengal, with the backing of new investors, moved smartly, striking a neat balance between youth and experience. The club also roped in former Indian national team boss Stephen Constantine as their new head coach. The Englishman has bags of experience on the Indian footballing circuit and will be able to chalk out a roadmap for the club.
During his time with the Blue Tigers, Constantine was often criticized for his overly defensive approach, but he was truly able to grind out important results. After two disappointing seasons, results are what East Bengal will be eyeing.
Let’s take a look at how the Red and Gold brigade might line up in the upcoming 2022-23 ISL season.
Goalkeeper: Kamaljit Singh
East Bengal acquired the services of Kamaljit Singh from Odisha FC after activating his release clause. The AIFF Academy graduate rose to fame after his stints with FC Pune City and Hyderabad FC in the ISL.
However, last season, Kamaljit conceded 30 goals in just 12 appearances and made 34 saves. The 26-year-old will be hoping to get back to his usual best.
Right-back: Mohammad Rakip
The young full-back was a pivotal part of India's U-17 batch that played in the 2017 U-17 World Cup. After joining Kerala Blasters in the 2017-18 season, he then became the first Indian U-17 player to sign for an ISL club.
Two years later, he was roped in by Mumbai City FC but went on to make only nine appearances for the Islanders. But he has the talent to shine in East Bengal.
The 21-year-old defender was one of the revelations of the 2021-22 I-League season while playing for Sreenidi Deccan FC. His performances for the Vizag-based club earned him a move to East Bengal FC ahead of the new season.
Last season, Lalchungnunga made 17 appearances, including 14 starts. Even in his brief appearances in the Durand Cup, the Mizo defender showed that he's ready to step up against the big boys.
Centre-back: Ivan Gonzalez
Even before kicking the ball for the Red and Gold outfit, Ivan Gonzalez had already become a fan favorite. His stint in the Durand Cup further showed that the Spaniard will be a pivotal part of the club's backline.
He was a leader both on and off the pitch for FC Goa, and East Bengal fans will be hoping he can replicate a similar impact for the Kolkata giants.
Left-back: Jerry Lalrinzuala
The 2016 ISL Emerging Player of the Year was a faithful servant at Chennaiyin FC for six seasons. During his time at the club, Jerry became the youngest goal-scorer for the Marina Machans.
Even last season, when Chennai were in a fix, the young full-back continued to perform, making 56 tackles, 20 blocks and assisting twice in 20 appearances.
Central midfielder: Alex Lima
After joining Jamshedpur FC in the summer of 2020, Alex Lima became a crucial part of Owen Coyle's system. He was integral to the Red Miners Shield winning run last season. The Brazilian made 22 appearances, including 12 starts, and registered one goal and four assists.
The 33-year-old will expectedly be the one orchestrating the play for East Bengal from the middle of the park.
Central midfielder: Amarjit Singh Kiyam
Another integral part of the famous U-17 Indian team, Amarjit Singh Kiyam has ample experience of playing in the ISL as well as for East Bengal. He has played for the Red and Gold before and the knows the emotion that comes along with it.
His ball-carrying ability could make him important for the Torchbearers' build-up play.
Attacking midfielder: Jordan O'Doherty
The former Newcastle Jets midfielder was the final overseas signing of the Kolkata giants. Jordan O'Doherty is primarily a central midfielder, but can also slot in as a defensive midfielder or even as a No. 10.
The 24-year-old is expected to be the one gluing the midfield and the attack with his quality in transitions.
Right-winger: V.P. Suhair
In an otherwise forgettable last season for NorthEast United FC, VP Suhair was one of their rare bright spots. He showed real character to stand up and perform when everything around him was falling apart. The Palakkad-born forward made 19 appearances for the Highlanders, scoring four goals and providing two assists.
Suhair can either play as a wide forward, or even in a two-striker formation. His versatility will give East Bengal and Stephen Constantine plenty of options upfront.
Left-winger: Aniket Jadhav
The 22-year-old is an industrious winger and was a pivotal member of Hyderabad FC's ISL-winning campaign. He appeared in 20 matches, registering two goals and three assists.
The youngster will bring a lot of work rate into the East Bengal side and could provide some moments of magic with his silky dribbling abilities.
Centre-forward: Cleiton Silva
Arguably the most exciting and reliable of East Bengal's attacking options, Cleiton Silva is expected to lead the line for the Red and Gold brigade. The former Bengaluru FC star has played 37 matches in the ISL so far, scoring 16 goals.
He hasn't always played as an outright forward but has the ability to combine well with the likes of Suhair and Aniket Jadhav.
The Brazilian is also a force to be reckoned with in set-piece situations.