Yuva Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata
24 November 2013
I-League returns to action after the international break, that saw the national team take on Philippines and Nepal, with one of the most sought after encounters in Indian Football; Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
Retrospectively, both the Kolkata giants find themselves in an opposite situation in comparison to the time when they met in the first ill-tempered derby last season. While Mohun Bagan were going through a tough time at that point, bringing in Karim Bencherifa after letting go Santosh Kashyap; East Bengal this season have brought in Armando Colcao instead of Marcus Falopa. Bagan appear to be the settled team this time as were East Bengal the last time around.
Team News And Tactical Brief
After a slow start which raised a few doubts over Karim Bencherifa’ s reign at the club, Mohun Bagan have slowly found their rhythm back with registering wins over Salgaocar and Mumbai FC while drawing away matches against Dempo and Lajong. The derby is extremely important for Mohun Bagan as their next four matches are on the home turf; a victory in the derby could prove to be a major morale booster for the team.
Shilton Paul, who has been in an outstanding form this season, is expected to start under the post for the Mariners. Such has been Paul ‘s form that Sandip Nandy has been forced to the bench! Mohun Bagan, however, will miss their Nigerian defender Eche who did a wonderful job in marking down Chidi Edeh in the derby last season. In his absence, it is likely that Indian international Aibor Khongjee ,who was impressive in the twin friendlies, and Rowilson Rodrigues might start at the heart of Bagan defense. Pritam Kotal, who has made an intimidate impactafter he was signed on loan by Bagan from IMG Reliance, is expected to start as the right full-back, while his Arrows team-mate Shouvik Ghosh should occupy the opposite flank.
Denson Devadas will lead the Bagan midfield and his passing will hold the key to most of his side’s move. In the absence of Zakeer Mundampara, Kingshuk Debnath is expected to play as a defensive midfielder. Kingshuk is an experienced I-League campaigner and will be entrusted with the task of breaking up East Bengal’s play. In the absence of any experienced left midfielder, Japanese Katsumi Yusa is to start on the left side, though he will be given a free role in the midfield. The playmaker has been Mohun Bagan’ s best player so far and the fans will be relishing the opportunity of seeing him and Odafa together. One of the best young talents in the I-League, Ram Malik looks favorite to start on the right flank and he would be looking to make a mark on the biggest stage – Kolkata derby.
All eyes however will be on Mohun Bagan skipper Odafa Okolie who plays his first I-League match of the season after he got injured in the pre-season. There is no doubt that Bagan have struggled without him and his return would boast the morale of the team though it remains to be seen if he would last the full 90 minutes. Eric Muranda has worked hard but has been guilty of missing some easy chances. He is expected to start as well. The involvement of CS Sabeeth in the second half also look probable.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Shilton Paul, Pritam Kotal, Rowilson Rodrigues, Aibor, Shouvik Ghosh; Kingshuk Debnath, Denson Devadas; Ram Malik, Eric Muranda, Katsumi Yusa; Odafa Okolie
Continental High-flyers East Bengal have failed to make an impression in the I-League as they find themselves with only 7 points from five outings. Much was expected from the Lal-Hould brigade before the start of the tournament but Marcus Falopa failed to get results from the impressive squad he had; paving way for Armando Colaco. Colaco identified two major areas in East Bengal’s struggle -the lack of a play maker behind the strikers and a weak defensive screen.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is likely to start under the bar. The back-four may feature Uga Okpara and Arnab Mondal, starting in the center with the entrusted job of keeping Odafa Okolie under check. Naoba Singh hasn’t looked sharp this season while Abhishek Das is injured and hence we could see vice-captain Harmanjot Khabra take up the right back slot. As with Dempo, Colaco Armando is likely to allow both the full backs freedom to move down.
Mehtab Hossain has been identified by Colaco as the player to play as a defensive screen and sit in front of the central defenders. The East Bengal skipper has flourished in this position for the national team. Former Dempo man and Armando’s favorite Joaquim Abranches is expected to start on the right flank while Ralte will whip in crosses from the left flank. The return of Japanese play-maker Ryuji Sueoka should help Colaco solve the problem of winning the ball for the strikers and the Japanese would be reuniting with the Goan after a season at Dempo. Sueoka’s return would no doubt boast the moral of Lal-Hould brigade who have been struggling to create chances.
Upfront Chidi Edeh and James Moga have failed to recreate their form from the previous season and though it is still early in the season to comment but Colaco’s biggest challenge will be to ensure that the duo complement each other and develop an understanding among themselves. Baljit Sahni, another player mentioned by Colaco after he took over is all set to play a role in this match probably as the substitute.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Harmanjot Khabra, Uga Okpara, Arnab Mondal, Robert Lalthalma; Joaquim Abranches, Mehtab Hossain, Ryuji Sueoka, Lalrindike Ralte; Edeh Chidi, James Moga.
Key Battles To Watch Out For
Katsumi Yusa v Mehtab Hossain
The Japanese playmaker is the main source of creativity for the Mariners and is likely to be the creator of most of the moves for his team and he will be up against Mehtab Hossain one who is one of the best defending midfielders in the country and is likely yo play as a defensive screen as indicated by Armando. This battle could go a long way in deciding who wins the derby.
Odafa Okolie v Arnab Mondal
Mohun Bagan fans have patiently waited for their talismatic striker Odafa Okolie to return from the injury and the prolific striker will be carrying a lot of hopes on his shoulder. Marking him will be one of the best center backs in the nation – Arnab Mondal. If Mondal succeeds in the restricting Odafa, the Lal-Hould brigade could go on to win the match.
Karim Bencherifa vs Armando Colaco
The most important battle however will be fought of the field between two of the most the most experienced coaches in I-League. Both I-League winning coaches have crossed swords on a lot pf occasions previously and their tactical acumen and substitutions will play a key role in shaping the course of this eagerly anticipated derby.
Mohun Bagan 2-1 East Bengal
The biggest match in the I-League is poised to be a thrilling affair with two technically sound managers at the helm of both the clubs. However with East Bengal beginning a new chapter under Armando Colcao and Mohun Bagan looking settled, expect the Mariners to win the bragging rights though only narrowly.
Blast From The Past
Here are goals from East Bengal’ s famous 4-1 win over East Bengal in the 1997 Federation Cup Semifinal where Baichung Bhutia scored a hat-trick