Kolkata: A full strength East Bengal will be up against bottom-placed Sporting Clube de Goa when the two sides meet in the first match of the second phase of the I-League football tournament here tomorrow.
Besides the return of Arnab Mondal, Saumik Dey, Cavin Lobo and Lalrindika Ralte from national duty, East Bengal are also likely to get the services of their fit-again captain Harmanjyot Singh Khabra who is back in training after a long injury lay-off.
The Goans, on the other hand, have been bolstered by the signing of former Mohun Bagan forward Odafa Okolie as well as local striker Marcus Mascarenhas and Syrian international midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna in their bid to save themselves from relegation.
An experienced veteran at the artificial turf in Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan, Odafa will be back to haunt the East Bengal defence but it would be interesting to see how effective the Nigerian would be in his new club.
Sporting who are currently at the bottom of the I-League table with just three points from eight matches were confident of Odafa reviving their fortunes.
"The name Odafa Okolie is synonymous with goals in Indian football. We believe his addition to the team will give us that much needed boost. His track record speaks for its self," Sporting Clube de Goa President Peter Vaz said.
The recent introduction of the defensive duo Sandesh Jhinghan and Miguel Garcia has steadied the ship while Sporting have made their signing count to five with Glan Martins and Alber Gonsalves.
The Goans have dominated teams in patches and created ample opportunities in the league but have frustratingly fallen short inside rival box with only three goals so far. It will be interesting to see what Odafa brings to the table.
East Bengal will resume their I-League campaign after suffering a second consecutive away defeat in the AFC Cup. They were downed 1-2 by Balestier Khalsa FC in Singapore's Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday.
In the I-League, however, East Bengal have a happy memory of thrashing Dempo 5-1 in an away match earlier this month as they would look to continue their winning run ahead of next week's derby against Mohun Bagan.
Last year's runners-up East Bengal still have a lot of catching up to do as they are lying fifth in the table with 12 points from seven outings in the 11-team standings led by Mohun Bagan.