Kolkata: Taking a break from the I-League, a struggling East Bengal will be up against the challenge of Thai Premier League leaders Chonbury FC in their AFC Cup
group H opener at Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Wednesday.
Of late, the local giants struggled in the I-League as they slipped to second spot on the table, slumping to their first defeat after 14 matches when they lost out to minnows ONGC.
In their previous match, East Bengal were held by debutants Indian Arrows, as the team was badly hit by the absence of their ace defender Uga Okpara who was slapped a two-match suspension.
East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan will have a full side at his disposal with midfielder Reisangmi Vashum, who made a return against Indian Arrows, all set to play, while the big Nigerian Okpara will man the defence.
It will be a big test for the Englishman to uplift the sagging morale of the players as they take on the Thailand outfit boasting five players from the national side.
Led by in-form striker Pipob On-Mo, Chonbury are high on confidence as they have won one and drew the other to lead the Thai Premier League table.
The team has three foreigners including Japanese medio Kushida Kazuto, but head coach Witthaya Laohkul indicates that he would prefer only one foreigner as he wants to give opportunities to his local players.
In Chonbury`s campaign, all eyes would be on 37-year-old veteran midfielder Therdsak Chaiman who had played for BEC Terros Sasana in their loss to East Bengal in the 2003 Asean Cup final.
"The match eight years ago is still vivid in my memory. But I hope it will be another day tomorrow," Chaiman said.
Morgan`s boys will look to ride on the home advantage as both the teams want to begin with full points.
Notwithstanding their indifferent form in the I-League, East Bengal will look to start the tournament on a new note, feels Morgan.
"It`s a different tournament. Recent I-League form should not bother us. We have a home advantage here... We want to make full use of it and start on a winning note," Morgan said.
"It`s a big tournament and there is a lot of expectations from us. We all are really proud to compete at this level. We want to go match by match," the Englishman added.
On their opposition, he said, "They play skillful football. It will be a good test for our players."