History-chasing East Bengal take on Kuwait SC in AFC Cup
Kuwait City: Seeking to become the first Indian football club to qualify for the AFC Cup final, the unbeaten East Bengal are all set for their toughest assignment so far when they take on defending champions Kuwait SC in the first-leg semifinals on Tuesday.
East Bengal are the only unbeaten team among the four semifinalists, but Marcos Falopa`s side would face its toughest test of the campaign in Kuwait SC, who have played in Asia`s top tier competition AFC Champions League besides winning the AFC Cup twice.
The Kolkata side is without its Japanese midfielder Ryuji Sueoka who was injured during the quarterfinal away match against Indonesian side Semen Padang, but all the other players are fit for the match. They are also a lot relieved after captain Mehtab Hossain, defender Arnab Mondal and Gurwinder Singh landed in Kuwait City after a day`s delay due to late sending of their visas by Kuwait SC authorities.
Luckily, East Bengal are also playing away in the first leg and coach Falopa had said before departure from Kolkata that his team would be looking for a tactical game in Kuwait. Playing the second leg at home would allow East Bengal to know the target to be achieved.
"I am looking forward to a tactical game in Kuwait and I am happy that we are playing the first leg away from home. Playing the second leg at home would give you a clear picture what is your target to be achieved," he had said.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is expected to start tomorrow under the bar despite the horrendous mistake that let Semen Padang take the lead at home in the quarterfinals.
India international Arnab Mondal is expected to start alongside Uga Okpara at central defence while Saumik Dey should man the left back position. Thokchom Naoba is expected at right back, overlapping with either Reisangmei Vashum or Joaquim Abranches. Captain Mehtab Hossain will marshall the midfield alongside Cavin Lobo, with Chidi Edeh and James Moga expected to start upfront.
A draw or an away goal if they lose, could be what Falopa is looking from his side tomorrow.
Kuwait SC, the most successful Kuwaiti side, will be without key defender Yaqoub Al Taheris, who picked up a red card in the quarterfinals.
Much will depend on Kuwait international Al Shereedah who will be marshalling the midfield and the two lethal strikers -- Brazilian Rogerinho and Tunisian Isaam Jemma.
East Bengal coach Falopa has spoken about Rogerinho and Isaam and he could be having something up his sleeves to keep the Kuwait SC duo at bay.
East Bengal squad: Gurpreet Sandhu, Abhijit Mondal, Naoba Singh, Arnab Mondal, Uga Okpara, Saumik Dey, Gurwinder Singh, Robert Lalthlamuana, Mehtab Hossain, Joaquim Abranches, Reisangmei Vashum, Baljit Singh Sahni, Harmanjot Khabra, Alvito D`Cunha, Cavin Lobo, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Lalrindika Ralte, Chidi Edeh, James Moga.
Match starts: 10pm IST