Mohun Bagan face United SC test
Kolkata: United SC will be keen to return to winning ways against beleagured Mohun Bagan when they resume their rivalry in a return leg I-League fixture in Kalayni tomorrow.
After the loss in Mumbai, United SC will be back at the home ground and against an opposition who are struggling to get their act together after their ban was overturned by the AIFF.
After taking fresh guard with zero point in their kitty, Mohun Bagan were thrashed 0-2 by Salgaocar while they struggled for a goalless draw against minnows United Sikkim in the last round.
It remains to be seen how coach Karim Bencherifa lifts their morale as they have 14 more matches remaining and with one point in their pocket, they have a huge task to avoid the ignominy of relegation.
Without Odafa Okolie, whose suspension will end only after this match, Mohun Bagan will desperately hope that Tolgay Ozbey rediscovers his scoring touch and strikes a chord with his make-shift partner Syed Rahim Nabi.
Bencherifa will also have to be careful about his backline to check the Ranty Martins-Kayne Vincent onslaught.
The Moroccan coach, however, sounded optimistic and said they were improving gradually.
"We hope to pick up full points and better our progress in the tournament. Our last opponent (United Sikkim FC) played a defensive game, but United SC are expected to play a more open game. We are looking to regain form and hopefully that will be soon. Tomorrow is new day," Bencherifa said.
United SC have 5-3 win-loss track record from nine outings against Mohun Bagan whose last league win against the former came in the 2009-10 edition.
United will miss their star midfielder Carlos Hernandez who has gone back to Costa Rica due to personal reasons.
"We will be missing some players but we have enough talent in the side and hope to give a good fight," their Dutch coach Eelco Schattorie said.
United SC will, however, welcome back midfielder Lalkamal Bhowmick from suspension.
Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, have registered former Salgaocar FC player Quinton Jacobs, who had undergone trials for the Manchester United U-19 team in 1999.
United won three successive matches before the loss in Mumbai as they had beaten sides like Dempo SC, Pune FC and Sporting Clube de Goa to get to top five.
United SC are on fifth with 26 points from 17 matches.