I-League: Leaders Mohun Bagan seek dominance in Kolkata derby
Table toppers Mohun Bagan would be keen to extend their dominance in the I-League football competition when they meet traditional rivals East Bengal in the return leg of the Kolkata derby at the Salt Lake stadium on Saturday.
Kolkata: Table toppers Mohun Bagan would be keen to extend their dominance in the I-League football competition when they meet traditional rivals East Bengal in the return leg of the Kolkata derby at the Salt Lake stadium on Saturday.
The last time when the two teams met in February, they played out a 1-1 draw in front of a sparsely filled stadium, very uncharacteristic of a match between the two city giants whose rivalry even features in world football governing body FIFA's classic derby list.
But this time a lot more fans are expected to flock to the ground as the match would be played on a weekend. And with Mohun Bagan leading the points standings and also hosting the match, green and maroon supporters are expected to outnumber their red and gold counterparts in the stands.
The home team has taken several novel initiatives to bring back the fans to the ground. They would introduce a "Hospitality Zone" section with the best view of the field accompanied by a gourmet menu and fridge stocked with premium beverages for the zone. Mineral water and high tea would also be served for the 4.30 pm kick-off.
The menu includes fried bhetki fish, sandwiches (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), sandesh from the reknowned sweet shop "Nakurs" and coffee.
At the entrance to the zone, roses would be distributed to the spectators. Prices for these premium tickets are pegged at Rs 1,000.
Mohun Bagan are coming into the contest in the backdrop of a 2-0 win against Goan club Dempo SC while East Bengal had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Sporting Clube De Goa after surrendering a two-goal advantage.
It would be East Bengal's new Dutch coach Eelco Schattorie's first derby and he has the unenviable task of stopping the Mohun Bagan juggernaut. The Mariners, as Mohun Bagan are fondly called, are unbeaten in the tournament so far, collecting eighteen points from eight matches.
Schattorie's woes are certainly not limited to worrying about the opposition as his team's form has been scratchy since he took over, lying fifth on the leaderboard with 13 points from eight matches.
Schattorie's primary task would be to find a way to stop a rampaging Mohun Bagan attack led by the talented foreigner trio of Katsumi Yusa, Sony Norde and Pierre Boya.
He would, however, draw confidence from the fact that Mohun Bagan have failed to beat East Bengal in the last six I-League encounters, the latter winning twice.
Mohun Bagan winger Sony Norde was confident of his team's chances in the match.
"I am feeling more confident for the upcoming derby match and the confidence of the team is high as we have started on a winning note by defeating a good side like Dempo, after a two-week break; a derby match is a very different game and we have to play to our potential to win," said Norde.
But Mohun Bagan, despite being well placed, too have concerns with their first choice back-line unavailable for varied reasons.
Nigerian Bello Rasaq is doubtful with a nagging ankle injury while Dhanachandra Singh nurses a hamstring pull.
Another rearguard Shouvik Ghosh is also carrying an injury while Pritam Kotal is away on national duty with the India Under-23 team.
In their absence, Anwar Ali is likely to play in central defence with Sukhen Dey and Kingshuk Debnath occupying the wing-back positions. Their battle against East Bengal's attacking Nigerian duo of Ranti Martins and Dudu Omagbemi could determine the outcome of the match.
Martins was cautiously optimistic about his team's performance in the match.
"A derby is always difficult and is not easy for any of the teams. We both have the fighting spirit, and I don't think Mohun Bagan are going to be easy to face against," Martins said on Friday.
"They are a very difficult side. However, like I said, a win is always what we are looking for, but more than winning it is going to be how we play. We are going to play well and hopefully dominate the ball possession and execute more creative play."