Siliguri: Still smarting from their shock defeat against Aizawl FC, defending champions Mohun Bagan will look to bring their campaign back on track when they face arch-rivals East Bengal in the I-League derby at the Kanchenjunga Stadium on Saturday.
Placed at the top, Mohun Bagan (25) are three points clear of second placed Bengaluru FC while East Bengal have 20 points. Having played 11 matches, the green-and-maroon suffered their first defeat of the season when they lost to debutants Aizawl FC in Mizoram.
Joel Sunday (3') opened the scoring before Cornell Glen (24') equalised but Lalchhawnkima (54') scored from the spot to hand Mohun Bagan the first defeat of the 2015/16 I-League campaign in a match which they played sans Jeje Lalpekhula, Pronay Halder, Pritam Kotal and Haitian Sony Norde who went for their national commitments.
Norde is back but did not practice today and is a doubtful starter for the much-anticipated return leg derby. "I don't know about his fitness. I will speak to him later in the evening and will decide on the combination," coach Sanjoy Sen said.
Sen however cannot guide his team from the sidelines as he still has two more matches to serve his suspension. Mohun Bagan midfielder Cornell Glenn however is confident of a good show and sees this derby as a make or break in their bid for the second successive title.
"If we're to win this I-League, we have to win tomorrow's match," he said. Shankarlal Chakraborty, who is standing in for suspended coach Sanjoy Sen at Mohun Bagan, says a positive result for the team is of paramount importance in the upcoming I-League derby against East Bengal.
"Our strategy is pretty straight and simple, give your cent percent and churn out a positive result. In our quest for the second consecutive I-League trophy, we need a positive result," Chakraborty, who has represented both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal after having graduated from Tata Football Academy, said.
"Our first priority always remains not to concede an early goal. In the early minutes of the game, we tend to focus on judging our opponents and then changing our gears according to our strengths and their limitations. When the two giants confront with each other, you can't expect anything less than an enthralling humdinger." On form, East Bengal stay ahead having won against the same team Aizawl FC in the last match and going by the practice mood it seemed that their burly defender Bernard Mendy will be fit.
"It's an important match. We have more supporters here and looking forward to a positive result," Biswajit Bhattacharya said. After a long hiatus, the Kolkata Derby is set to be played outside the city that hosts the two most decorated clubs of Indian football.
Till now, the two teams have faced each other 58 times outside Kolkata, with East Bengal winning on 22 occasions while the green and maroons have won it 16 times. The other 20 occasions saw the spoils being shared between the two sides.
Mohun Bagan are behind in terms of goals scored in those encounters as well, as they have found the back of the net only 42 times, 13 goals less than their arch rivals. The only competitive game played between the two sides at Siliguri ended in a 1-1 draw. East Bengal's Chima Okorie and Mohun Bagan's Satyajit Chatterjee had scored in that 1988 Airlines Cup fixture.
Darjeeling and Haldia have also hosted four derbies in total, two of which were won by East Bengal, while the other two ended in draws.
East Bengal won the last match, while Mohun Bagan lost to the same incidentally to the same opponents Aizawl FC.