East Bengal to clash with Churchill Brothers

Kolkata: Unbeaten East Bengal will look to continue with their fine form when they take on Churchill Brothers tomorrow in a battle between two top teams of the I-League.

To their advantage, the Goan giants will be bolstered by return of their national players who are back after India`s campaign in the Asian Cup as they look to snatch a point against the team in form in the round 12 match at Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

East Bengal`s national recruits -- Syed Rahim Nabi, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Sushil Singh -- however will only be available from next month.

"The trio are here but they still are in an agreement with the AIFF. The team is doing very well and we are not in a crisis. They will be available from February onwards," East Bengal football secretary Santosh Bhattacharya said.

The match will see return of their midfielder Sushant Mathew who had to sit out because of a double booking in their 1-0 win over Viva Kerala in the previous round.

Manned by Uga Okpara, East Bengal defence is the talk of the season having conceded just two goals as they are yet to lose from 11 matches.

It will be a test of the Nigerian`s ability when he is pitted against the top striker Odafe Okolie who is already leading the charts with 15 goals in the I-League this season.

Even the Nigerian defender is looking forward to the Okpara vs Okolie clash.

"I`ve been up against many top strikers but Odafa is class apart. I`m looking forward to the battle, it will be really memorable. Having defended him successfully in the Federation Cup this season, I`m really confident to hold him once again," Okapra said.

But Churchill Brothers coach Vincent Subramaniam added some twist to the tale by saying that Odafe has a thigh muscle problem, putting a question mark on his availability.

However, it appears to be a strategic move by the team think-tank to put the opponents camp guessing.

East Bengal`s inspirational coach Trevor James Morgan said he is confident of yet another win.

"Churchill have the national players but we have the home advantage. We are eyeing nothing less than three (points)," said the Englishman.

While India players, Steven Dias and Gourmangi Singh will boost Churchill Brothers line-up, the team will also look forward to their other foreigners in Kayne Vincent and Jerry Karpeh.