East Bengal host league leaders Bengaluru FC
Kolkata: AFC Cup semi-finalists East Bengal host high-flying table toppers Bengaluru FC in a round 7 clash of the Airtel I-League in Kalyani here on Saturday.
It will not only be the first-ever meeting between the two clubs but Bengaluru FC would also be playing their maiden away game, having won four of their five home matches to occupy the pole position in the 13-team table with as many points.
East Bengal on the other hand have a fixture backlog to make up in the I-League as they have been making India proud in the continent with their record-breaking run in the AFC Cup.
The Kolkata club`s amazing journey in the AFC Cup came to an end against defending champions Kuwait SC in the semi-finals after their 3-0 loss in the second leg on Tuesday.
The red-and-gold-brigade have only played twice in the I-League and recorded three points. They lost their last match 3-1 against Dempo and thus would be eager to return to winning ways against debutants Bengaluru FC.
East Bengal`s Brazilian coach Marcos Falopa however has some selection problems as dependable Nigerian central defender Uga Okpara is unavailable due to suspension while the midfield duo of Ryuji Sueoka and Reisangmi Vashum are also expected to miss out due to injury.
Indian defender Arnab Mondal is also nursing an injury, which he suffered in the AFC Cup semi-final second leg.
But irrespective of all those personnel problems, East Bengal are desperate for maximum points as they don`t want to lose any further ground in the title race because a defeat in this game would see them fall 13 points behind the leaders, albeit having three games in hand.
"There is a long season ahead so we must improve on certain areas and look to come back strongly," Falopa said after the AFC Cup exit.