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Md. Sp. guile versus Army thrust

New Delhi: Mohammedan Sporting and Army XI will be on the threshold of history as they take on each other in the first semi-final of the 115th Pepsi Durand Cup Tuesday. While this will be Mohamemdan Sporting’s first appearance in the last four stage after eight years, Army XI have qualified after 10 years.

It will be a contest between the guile of the Calcutta giants and the speed and thrust of the Army XI. As the Army outfit topped Group C ahead of fancied Indian Telephone Industries and Vasco, Mohammedan Sporting moved in from Group A beating JCT 1-0 and drawing 1-1 with Tata Football Academy.

Mohammedan Sporting, the first Indian team to win the Durand in 1940, have reached the finals thrice since then in 1959, 1980 and 1992, always finishing runner up. For Army XI, it can be their first entry into the finals.

Mohammedan Sporting coach Mohammed Habeeb has not yet decided on his final XI. Though stopper Hussain Mustafi is available after a red card in the opening match against TFA, Habeeb is unlikely to tinker with the back four which played against JCT.

Hence Habib Adekunle and Insan Ali will play as central defenders while Biswanath Mondal and Amandeep Singh will start as wing backs. The coach feels that Army XI’s approach play is similar to JCT, the long ball, speed and one touch play.

He holds Preetam Bahadur, who scored seven goals in the Santosh Trophy, as the danger man. Hence Adekunle will be used to keep an eye on the striker.

In the midfield, Habeeb was impressed with the work-rate and snatching ability of Bhuvan Joshi and will continue with him along with Amit Das. Syed Rahim Nabi will play as a withdrawn winger.

With Khemtang Paite injured, the choice for the other midfielder is between Abdul Rauf and Arunava Sarkar.

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