I-League: High flying Mohun Bagan will hope to get past struggling Salgaocar FC, Bengaluru face Aizawl
The Mariners kicked off the I-League with a 3-1 rout of debutants Aizawl FC at home.
Kolkata: Defending champions Mohun Bagan will look to extend their winning run when they host a struggling Salgaocar FC in a round two fixture of the I-League football tournament at the Vidyasagar Krirangan at Barasat on Saturday.
Meanwhile, having lost their campaign opener, newbies Aizwal FC face a tough task when they take on former champions Bengaluru FC in Mizoram's first I-League match here.
Bagan kicked off the I-League with a 3-1 rout of debutants Aizawl FC at home last week, while the Goans suffered a 1-2 defeat to last season's runners-up Bengaluru FC.
Mohun Bagan will further be bolstered by the return of Brazilian defender Luciano Sabrosa as they will look to keep their winning momentum intact ahead of the much anticipated derby against East Bengal next week.
There will be more reason to rejoice for Mohun Bagan as their high profile Haitian forward Sony Norde is set to join on Wednesday, clearing the air about his availability.
With no Norde for tomorrow's fixture, Katsumi Yusa will carry the creative mantle for the reigning champions and the presence of Cornell Glen upfront will be a constant threat for the opposition.
Trinidad and Tobago forward Glenn scored twice in their opening match and he will look to add to his tally alongside Balwant Singh who scored the third goal in their 3-1 win.
With Sabrosa likely to make the starting XI, Mohun Bagan will have a solid defence which has old timer Kingshuk Debnath, Pritam Kotal and Dhanachandra Singh.
Salgaocar will bank on Darryl Duffy who made a surprise start for the Greens with their foreigner duo of Martin Scott and Calvin Mbarga indisposed.
Coach Malky Thomson went ahead with a 4-3-3 formation as Keenan Almeida, Nicolau Colaco, Gurjinder Kumar and Augustin Fernandes made up the defensive line while new signing Jackichand Singh, Alesh Sawant and Duffy were deployed as the attacking contingent. It would be interesting to see his ploy in the away match here tomorrow.
Salgaocar will have to be watchful against conceding early goals, something that led to their downfall against former Champions Bengaluru FC who struck through C K Vineeth in the fifth minute in their last outing.
Salgaocar not only missed a flurry of chances but their defence left a lot to be desired to open their tally.
In the other game, the Mizoram capital is abuzz with the talk of witnessing its first-ever I-League match, but on the field at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium it will not be easy to face the team from Bengaluru, led by India captain Sunil Chhetri.
Aizawl FC lost 1-3 to defending champions Mohun Bagan in Kolkata on January 9 and they are pitted against another formidable opponents in Bengaluru, who are high on confidence after defeating Salgaocar in their opening match, in their second match tomorrow.
In the match against Bagan, Aizawl's defence was exposed several times as Cornell Glen struck twice and Balwant Singh scored the other goal. Aizawl's only strike came from rival defender Pritam Kotal's own goal.
Bengaluru, on the other hand, have come here on the back of a 2-1 win over Salgaocar, that too in their away match in Goa. Bengaluru forward C K Vineeth struck the opening goal while Chhetri netted the winner after Darryl Duffy equalised for Salgaocar.
Bengaluru have a strong line-up with Chhetri in fine form following his impressive show in Indian Super League and later in the SAFF Cup.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Thoi Singh would be trying to dominate the midfield and an inexperienced Aizwal, without reputed names, will have to play out of their skin. Though the football crazy Aizwal fans would be egging on their team it remains to be seen how much the home side can withstand the Bengaluru raids.
Aizwal are more or less an unknown quantity, though they were impressive in the I-League second division, and they will no doubt begin as underdogs against Bengaluru.