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Sasthi doubtful in do-or-die tie today
- East Bengal plans to go for the kill with three strikers

Jakarta: The dream of establishing East Bengal as a force in the Asian circuit has been driving coach Subhas Bhowmick for quite some time now. A victory on Wednesday against Army FC of The Philippines in the ASEAN Club Championship group D match is absolutely imperative for the Calcutta giants to keep them on track to fulfil their coveted dream.

Sasthi Duley, the diminutive midfielder who had a good outing against BEC Tero Sasana, appears doubtful against Army FC, adds a Staff Reporter in Calcutta. “He’s feeling unwell,” Bhowmick told The Telegraph, when contacted at his Jakarta hotel on Tuesday evening.

Bhowmick, though, added he’s yet to pick the final XI. “I have not yet decided whether to field the same XI on Wednesday. I hope Sasthi will be fit,” the East Bengal coach said.

It wouldn’t have been such a desperate situation had East Bengal been able to churn out a point against BEC Tero Sasana on Monday, but it wasn’t to be.

Despite an inspired showing, East Bengal went down 0-1 to the Thai champions.

Bhowmick, thus, is in no mood to take the Philippines side lightly.

“The Thais expected an easy match against us and were proved wrong… In fact, we should have won that game. So we too must not make the mistake of treating the Philippines side lightly and suffer the consequences,” Bhowmick said at the match-eve press conference.

He, however, made no bones about the fact that his boys are demoralised after Monday’s loss. “I’ll be honest, they are still demoralised. We deserved a penalty but did not get it.

“But that’s past and now I have to try and lift their spirits. I will speak to them again in the evening and get them focussed for Wednesday’s game.”

Bhowmick added that he won’t be making “changes unless forced to”.

“As for the yellow cards we received, it won’t be a problem. I will not be making any changes unless I really have to.”

The coach informed that he has no option but to go in with three strikers. “Since anything short of a victory will mean curtains for us, I plan to field three strikers for the game.”

Against BEC Tero, the Indian champions had only Bhaichung Bhutia upfront, with Bijen Singh and Alvito D’Cunha operating from a little deep.

Meanwhile, Army FC are an organised outfit and have come for the tournament with three months of practice behind them.

“We have been in centralised training for the last three months. We did not play any internationals but only played some local sides,” said coach Arnel Fernandez. “It is obvious that they have a physical advantage but we promise to give them a good fight.”

Fernandez watched East Bengal in action and felt that they are a very physical side. The coach, however, hopes that his boys will be able to counter the Calcutta giants on the physical front.

“I watched the game and have worked out a counter-strategy. We can only give our best and keep our fingers crossed that all goes well for us.”

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