AFC Cup is back to enthrall the Lal-Holud fans as their beloved team travels to the historic city named after the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. East Bengal gear up for the Xuan Thanh Sai Gon challenge in the Vietnamese capital as a part of Group H encounter tomorrow. The match will be kicked off at the Thong Nhat Stadium in front of an expected twenty thousand supporters cheering for the home side.
Xuan Thanh Saigon F.C
About a month ago, it was all grey for the Vietnamese Cup champions when V-league champions Da Nang annihilated them in the Vietnamese Super Cup. The former first division champs started their 2013 campaign with an impressive victory against BInh Duong. Then it was time for some history to be written as South-East Asians made their maiden appearance at the continental level. The Vietnamese side stunned the former S-League champions Tampines Rovers in the opening match to clinch all three points away from home. After morale boosting performance, Manager Tran Tien Dai is confident about his team before their first home game as the table topping team take on the second placed East Bengal side.
A home triumph in this match would open the group for other contenders to make a comeback. Saigon would have their captain Phan Van available for this vital match, who missed the opening encounter through injury. Nigerian Abdullahi Suleiman is expected to start this match alongside Christian Amougou. Other players who might be available for tomorrow’s fixture are Rogerio and Van Sang. Here is what could be the probable starting line-up of the hosts-
Probable Lineup (4-3-3):Tan Truong (GK), Phu, Hai Anh, The Son, Phuong Nam; Oloya, Quang, Phan Van(C); Amougou, Tan,Nyugen.
Standing captain in the last match, Tan Truong is expected to guard the goal as Hai Anh will be leading the defence from the centre. A couple of errors the defenders in the last match allowed Tampines Rovers to crawl back. With Chidi Edeh and Borisic in syncing up well, Saigon’s back line is likely have their work cut out. Ugandan Moses Oloya would be the man to mark for Mehtab Hossain as he will be looking to drive the match with his playmaking skills. Striking department will be led by Christian Amougou alongside Phan Tan and Nyugen Linh.
The Kolkata giants are in some form right now. Here is a quick stat attack- East Bengal have not lost a single game since their I-League loss to Churchill Brothers in January. The former national champions have won twelve and split points in one, since then. I-league table toppers are now up against a tough challenge when they face Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City in front of a jam packed crowd. East Bengal is placed second in the group H table after their comfortable win in the first round against Malaysia’s Selangor at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
Three members have joined the squad from India’s AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Myanmar- Robin Singh, Mehtab Hossain and Raju Gaikwad. The Lal-Holud brigade will be high on confidence as the Kolkata side is on the top of I-League table, in the semi-final of the IFA shield and placed at the summit of IFA League. Indeed a very good time to play their first away fixture in the AFC Cup and make it count. Center back Arnab Monal is still out nursing an injury; hence it will be Uga Okpara and Raju Gaikwad at the back for the Red-&-Gold. Abhijit Mandal is expected to be custodian, but coach Trevor Morgan would be tempted to field Gurpreet Singh, after some stellar performances by the lanky lad.
Mehtab would once again be the key for East Bengal, especially away from home. Mehtab put in some influential performances for India in Myanmar. Once again Morgan would be pinning his hopes in the middle of the park on Mehtab “Double cylinder” Hossain. Penn Orji will be sharing the midfield job with Mehtab. It will be interesting to see whether Morgan deploys Sanju Pradhan and Dika on the flanks or does he go with Khabra in the mix, with an eye to defend. Attack would be headed by in form Chidi Edeh and Borisic.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Gurpreet Singh(GK); Naoba, Raju, Uga, Soumik; Sanju, Mehtab, Penn, Dika, Chidi, Borisic.
Players To Watch Out For
Christian Amougou ( Xuan Saigon )
The Cameroonian number ten was among goals in the last round as his brace helped his side pull off a shocking result. He is third leading goal scorer in the V-League and his work rate all over would be very vital to Saigon’s plans on match day.
Chidi Edeh ( East Bengal)
The Nigerian has hit the back of the net twenty six times for the Red-&-Gold brigade already this season, and would be the man to watch out for Saigon defence. With Borisic gelling up well with the sturdy striker, it can spell doom for the south east Asians.
Xuan Thanh Saigon F.C 2-2 East Bengal
Last time these sides met, Xuan Saigon got the better of the Kolkata giants with a solitary goal in the BTV Cup two years ago. With both the teams in prime form, fans can expect a cracker of a match in Ho Chi Minh City. Xuan Saigon is expected to start aggressively in this match but East Bengal may put up a fight and there is very good chance that both the teams end up sharing the spoils.