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EB-MB clash only in final

Calcutta: Defending champions Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will not meet each other until the final of the Federation Cup to be played in the city from July 26 to August 8.

According to the schedule released by the All India Football Federation Thursday, the Big Two start the knockout tournament against lightweight teams, but must brace for tougher engagements from the very next stage.

The tournament, last held in the city in 1997 and not held last year, will follow the 16-team knockout format introduced in 2001. All matches will be played at Salt Lake Stadium.

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have been drawn in opposite halves of the draw, ruling out chances of a Calcutta Derby before the final. East Bengal, flying high at the moment, had failed to clear the first round in 2001, when their arch-rivals marched to the title.

Mohammedan Sporting who start on the opening day, against ITI and Tollygunge Agragami are the other two city teams. There are five Goan teams in fray, two each from Bangalore and Mumbai and one each from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Punjab.

Mohun Bagan will launch their campaign on Day 2, against SBT. They will face the winners of Churchill Brothers and Mahindra United in the quarter finals. East Bengal, expected to crush HAL in their opening match on July 31, will next meet either Tollygunge Agragami or Vasco.

FIXTURES

July 26: Mohammedan Sporting vs ITI, Indian Bank vs Salgaocar. July 27: Mohun Bagan vs SBT, Churchill Brothers vs Mahindra United. July 28: Haywards Sporting vs JCT, Air India vs Dempo. July 29: Vasco vs Tollygunge Agragami. July 31: HAL vs East Bengal. Quarter finals: July 30, August 1, 2, 3. Semi-finals: August 4, 5. Final: August 8.

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