The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bagan to go all out vs depleted Tolly

Calcutta: With the prize reinforcements now back again for national assignment to take part in the Busan Asian Games, Mohun Bagan have returned to where they had started it all along — fresh look, but often callow, in dealing with the pressure of defending the CFL Super Division title.

The much-hyped addition of Bhaichung Bhutia, Rennedy Singh, Satish Bharti and Rajat Ghosh Dastidar to the much-disgruntled squad over the past couple of weeks had done wonders for the club. Riding the strength of his new fire-power, coach Subrata Bhattacharya had a dream run — a 2-0 and 5-1 away-home wins over Sri Lanka’s Saunders SC in the AFC Champions League. The re-invigorated team even went on to beat their arch-rivals East Bengal in the Super Division clash (though the stars were not there for the game) to bring themselves right back in contention.

Set against such perspective, Mohun Bagan’s clash with Tollygunge Agragami Wednesday has assumed greater significance.

Only the wins against Tollygunge and then Mohammedan Sporting will push Mohun Bagan (22 points from 11 matches) towards effecting a play-off final with East Bengal, while any other result means the green-and-maroon’s journey is over.

“We want win at any cost, even if I know I have to fight it out without some of my key players,” Subrata said on the match-eve. Apart from the quartet now in Busan, utility player George Ekeh (red-carded in the match versus East Bengal) and defender Kajol Bhattacharya (double-booking) will also be unavailable against Tollygunge.

Subrata admitted his defence will be a pin-prick in his plans. That means, Yakubu will again be given a chance to earn the coach’s faith in the back-line.

His worries are, however, to some extent, offset by the fact that both Lolendra Singh and Basudeb Mondal have been controlling the midfield well.

Tollygunge, who beat Subrata’s team 2-1 in the first leg, also rue absence of their key players. Midfielders Mehtab Hossain and Ashim Biswas are now under Islam Akhmedov’s coaching for the AFC under-20 meet while the ITC of striker Isiaka Awoyemi (who had gone to play in Dhaka) is yet to arrive at the club. Bishwarup Bishu is out on account of double booking and defender Kabijit Khotel is injured.

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