Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata
31 August 2014
On 31st August 2014, Bengal will be divided into two parts for 90 minutes. A hundred thousand will flock to the Salt Lake Stadium to support their favorite teams in the biggest battle of Indian football, the Kolkata Derby. This Sunday the two Kolkata giants, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will lock horns for the first time this season, in a Calcutta Football League (CFL) encounter. This derby is also unique because it is the 150th derby of the CFL.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Mohun Bagan Athletic Club completed 125 years on 15th August 2014 and after 4 seasons without any silverware; the Mariners are desperately looking to win the CFL to end the drought of trophies. This Sunday’s derby is a very crucial match in Mohun Bagan’s quest for the CFL crown. Under Subhash Bhowmik’s coaching the Green and Maroon Brigade started this year’s CFL campaign with 3 straight wins. Their campaign then faced a roadblock, when they lost to Mohammedan Sporting. Apart from the bragging rights, a win in Sunday’s derby would give the Mariners 3 very vital points which would keep their CFL campaign alive
The Mariners have scored 7 goals in their 4 games in this CFL and it is good that all of their strikers. Balwant, Jeje, Sabeeth and their marquee player, Pierre Boya have all scored in the CFL. Japanese attacking midfielder, Katsumi Yusa, who scored the winning goal for Mohun Bagan in last year’s CFL derby is also in a good form and will be a key member of their roster. The defense is the biggest concern for Mohun Bagan. Though they have conceded only 2 goals in the 4 games and have completed 3 of those games with clean sheets, the Bagan defense has looked fragile on a number of occasions and it will be a tough task for them to prevent Ranty Martins from scoring.
Subhash Bhowmik is likely to make a few changes to the team that lost 1-2 against Mohammedan, last Sunday. Skipper Shilton Paul is expected to start as the custodian. Nigerian defender Alao Fatai Adisa, is likely to make his debut for the Mariners in this derby. Fatai is no stranger to East Bengal though. He scored the winning game against East Bengal in an AFC Cup encounter in Kolkata in 2012. Fatai represented Yemen’s Al Oruba club in that game. Fatai is likely to start in central defense. Kingshuk Debnath is expected to partner him in central defense. Satish Singh looks favourite to start at right back and Dhanachandra Singh is expected to replace suspended, Souvik Ghosh as left back.
Japanese live-wire Katsumi Yusa, Sehnaj Singh and Souvik Chakrabarty are the supposed start in the midfield with Jeje, Sabeeth and Balwant Singh starting up front. Bagan’s marquee player, Pierre Boya has failed to impress in his 3 appearances in the CFL so far, and is likely to start from the bench. Veteran central midfielder Lal Kamal Bhowmik is also likely to start from the bench. Subhash Bhowmik would like to use him as a super sub, as used by Karim Bencherifa in 2008’s CFL derby, where Lalkamal came up from the bench and assisted two late goals, which brought a 2-1 win for.
East Bengal, the defending champions of the CFL, has had a disastrous start to this year’s CFL campaign. The Red and Gold Brigade started the season with a 0-1 defeat against Mohammedan Sporting. They won their next two games against BNR 4-1 and against Aryans 2-1. They were then held on to a 1-1 draw against Kalighat MS.
Like their arch rivals, the defense is an Achilles heel for East Bengal. East Bengal’s defense has conceded a goal in every game they have played so far. To make matters worse, Arnab Mondal, one of their first choice center backs, left the field in the last game against Kalighat with an injury, and is out for the derby. The poor form of their talismanic striker, Ranty Martins is also reason for Armando Colaco to worry about.
Abhijit Mondal is likely to guard the goal for the Red and Gold brigades. The seasoned veteran, Deepak Mondal, who has had an impressive start, with a goal against BNR, will start as right back. Gurwinder Singh will partner Raju Gaikwad in the absence of Arnab, in the central defense. Robert is expected to start as the left back. The experienced Mehtab Hussain, will start in the central midfield along with Cavin Lobo.
Harmajot Khabra and East Bengal’s marquee Leo Bertos are expected to start on the wings. Ranty Martins will start up front with Joaquim Abranches. Nigerian star striker Dudu Omagbemi who arrived in the city just in time for the big match might start the game on the bench and might be used as a super sub. Mohammad Rafique, the speedy winger, who joined East Bengal from United Sports Club this season, is another option as a super sub for Armando Colaco.
Armando Colaco vs Subhash Bhowmik
This derby is also likely to showcase another enthralling battle. A battle between two of India’s most successful coach coaches, Armando Colaco and Subhash Bhowmik. Armando has won 5 I-League titles, while Subhash has won 3. Both of them have also tasted success in continental tournaments. While under Armando’s guidance Dempo became the 1st Indian club to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Cup in 2008, Subhash guided East Bengal to the ASEAN Cup title in 2001. These two master tacticians would look to counter each other’s strategies and take their team to victory this Sunday.
The Kolkata derby has always been unpredictable and on a number of occasions in the past, the team which had looked stronger on paper had ended on the losing side. Though on current form, Mohun Bagan appears to have a slight edge over their arch rivals in this Sunday’s encounter, the result is unpredictable as always.
Written by Guest Author Srijan Bhattacharya