East Bengal look forward to third straight win
Kolkata: Title contenders East Bengal will look to score their third straight win when they take on an inexperienced AIFF XI in a third round match of the 4th I-League at Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Sunday.
Having beaten defending champions Dempo in Goa in their last match, East Bengal are back home to face the young AIFF outfit that has been floated by the federation with the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in mind.
East Bengal, who have already won the Federation Cup and the local league this season, look a formidable side this time around under Englishman coach Trevor James Morgan as they have emerged as the team to beat from Kolkata.
With the likes of Tolgay Ozebe and Robin Singh upfront, Penn Orji as the attacking playmaker along with the impressive Mehtab Hussain, Naoba Singh and Reisangmi Vashum and the defensive partnership of Uga Okpara and Nirmal Chhetri, East Bengal look a strong side compared to their inexperienced opponents.
But star stopper Okpara, who has a sore throat, is a doubtful starter for tomorrow, with Sunil Kumar as his likely replacement.
Morgan, however, does not want to underestimate their opponents who have already opened their account with a draw against ONGC.
"They have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. They have no immediate goal. Seen as the future of Indian football, the bunch of youngsters can be as tough as any other side. We should not be complacent. We have to play for three points," Morgan said.
East Bengal have scored only two goals in the two wins so far, but the coach said it was not a concern.
"It`s a marathon league with 24 matches to go. As long as we are winning, I don`t think it`s a concern at this point," Morgan said about their current fourth place on the standings.
The AIFF outfit, however, has injury concerns over the forward duo of Holicharan Singh and Manandeep Singh, while medio Bikram Singh too is a doubtful starter.
In the AIFF ranks, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Lanrindika Ralte and Raju Gaekwad have already showed some glimpses of brilliance as they look to prove that age is not a barrier for the Desmond Bulpin-coached side.
"We will play to gather experience as we have a young outfit. Hope the boys dish out a promising display," Bulpin said.
East Bengal have six points, while AIFF XI have one point, having played two matches each.