Kolkata: Despite their six-match humiliation in the AFC Cup, East Bengal with their star striker Bhaichung Bhutia fully fit, will take fresh guard in the I-League when they face bottom-rung Sporting Clube de Goa at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
The Federation Cup champions lost to Al-Nejmeh 0-4 in the AFC Cup to cap a woeful run that saw the side concede 20 goals in six matches.
But East Bengal had a silver-lining in their loss to the Lebanese outfit with India captain Bhaichung Bhutia playing the full duration of the match - something that will bolster the side, even as they are down with injuries to their key players -- Uga Okpara (ankle), Syed Rahim Nabi (thigh), Subhash Singh (knee) and Yusif Yakubu (groin).
East Bengal have 24 points, but to their advantage they have six matches left in the I-League, compared to 20 points of Sporting, who have relegation threat looming large. The Goans have four matches left in the I-League.
In absence of Okpara, East Bengal`s defence has been in a disarray with the likes of Saumik Dey and Harmanjot Khabra failing to lead the backline.
For the Goan outfit, languishing at the bottom of the table, injury to their ace striker Nathaniel Amos has been a cause for concern.