East Bengal to take on Mumbai FC in I-League
Kolkata: Fresh from their morale-boosting draw in the AFC Cup but dogged with injuries and suspension problems, East Bengal will have their task cut-out against Mumbai FC in their round 17 return-leg I-League match at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Sunday.
Mumbai have the best chance to go one up against the depleted hosts but they will have to put behind the positive dope test of their medio Nishant Mehra.
Following the doping test result, the Mumbai outfit in the previous round went down 0-1 to HAL Bangalore as they lie on the sixth spot.
Premier League leaders Chonburi FC in the AFC Cup will miss out on three key players in Australian forward Tolgay Ozbey, Nigerian midfielder Orji Penn and the mercurial Mehtab Hussain because of double bookings.
Serving a two-match suspension, East Bengal`s star defender Uga Okpara will have to sit out as the backline will again be weakened with the absence of Harmonjit Singh Khabra who is down with an injury.
Their dominance in the league table is now a thing of past as it will be a test of character for maverick Trevor James Morgan to bring up the side from the difficult phase.
East Bengal`s last win came against HAL, Bangalore on January 22 in a round 11 match while they slumped to their first defeat (against ONGC) in a round 14 match as the most consistent team of the season slipped to third spot in the standings.
It will be desperate moments for the Englishman coach as his task will be to earn full points against Mumbai FC despite the setbacks to reduce the eight-point margin with leaders Salgaocar SC (40 points).
One point ahead of East Bengal, Churchill Brothers occupy the second spot.
In the first let, both the teams had played out a draw.
Coming into existence in 2007, Mumbai FC have survived three years in the top division as the last season they avoided relegation.
"Last year we had a tough time avoiding relegation but this season we are well-placed," said team manager Henry Picardo about the club`s collection of 24 points from 15 matches.