Kolkata: East Bengal will host table-toppers Salgaocar in a round eight clash of the Airtel I-League in Kalyani Friday.
The Kolkata giants are currently seven points behind Salgaocar in ninth place but have three games in hand. Both teams enjoyed 2-0 wins in round seven with East Bengal beating Bengaluru FC in Kalyani and Salgaocar getting the better of United SC at the same venue.
The three points against Bengaluru ended East Bengal’s four-game winless streak in Kalyani but they haven’t won back-to-back matches in the I-League since February and will be wary of Salgaocar’s consistency as the Goan club have picked 13 points from a possible 18.
East Bengal though have the best goal-scoring ratio so far his season with South Sudan striker James Moga bagging three in as many games.
The red-and-gold brigade will be boosted by the return of Nigerian central defender Uga Okpara from suspension but the midfield duo of Reisangmi Vashum and Ryuji Sueoka remain unavailable due to injury.
Despite the absence of first-team regulars like Okpara in the last match, East Bengal still managed to put up a good performance and end Bengaluru’s unbeaten start. Their Brazilian head coach Marcos Falopa is now looking for some consistency.
“Now that the AFC Cup is over, the I-League is our target. I am happy with the effort of the players so far and have complete faith in each of them,” Falopa said.
This will be Salgaocar’s fourth straight away game and coach Derrick Pereira will be satisfied with a return of six points from the previous three matches.
Pereira will be hoping for a similar team performance but history is against Salgaocar in this fixture as they haven’t won away at East Bengal in the I-League era.
The Kolkata club also leads the overall head-to-head in the combined history of the National Football League (NFL) and I-League with 12 wins, 10 draws and 10 defeats in 32 meetings.