Kolkata: East Bengal will look to recover from their shock defeat in the last round when they host a spirited Viva Kerala in their return-leg round 23 I-League encounter at Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
To add to their misery, East Bengal will miss out on their star Australian forward Tolgay Ozbey because of a double booking.
In fact, it was Tolgay who had scored in their 1-0 win over Viva Kerala in their first-leg match.
They also have a plethora of injury worries to mid-field mainstay Mehtab Hussain and defender Uga Opkara. Add to that Gurwinder Singh, Naoba Singh and R Vashum`s injury, and East Bengal have a real task at their hands.
East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan however still thinks that the title race is still open.
"We need to win and keep our fingers crossed. I feel the race for the title is still open," Morgan said as their hope will lie on the outcome of the Dempo v/s Salgaocar match in the same round.
On the team combination, the coach said: "Sunil Kumar and Nirmal Chhetri would play in central defence. We can`t afford to lose any more points."
East Bengal`s title hopes got a rude jolt in their previous match, when they went down to Pune FC in an away match.
With leaders Salgaocar suffering a shock defeat at the hands of Air India, East Bengal had a bright chance to win and close on the gap by two points.
In fact, they started in right earnest taking the lead with an Uga Okpara goal but the home side fought back strongly.
Goals from Mandjou Keita and S Venkatesh gave a big blow to East Bengal`s title aspiration as they remained on third position, five points behind leaders Salgaocar (46).
With six more rounds to go, Morgans` boys will have their task cut out.
The Kerala outfit, on the other hand, have come here on the back of a win over Mumbai FC and a 3-3 draw against reigning champions Dempo SC.