| Mohun Bagan coach Aloke Mukherjee (picture left) discusses a point with captain Rennedy Singh and Sunil Chhetri during practice at the club ground, while Mohammedan Sporting technical advisor P.K. Banerjee explains strategy to Dipendu Biswas and Habib Adekunle on Wednesday. Pictures by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Even their biggest fans will acknowledge that East Bengal have gone beyond their reach. Still, pride will be at a stake when Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting take on each other in the Super Division match at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.
More so for the green-and-maroon brigade, who went down to Mohammedan Sporting in the Federation Cup. But what’s going to give their coach Aloke Mukherjee a sleepless night is the fact that seven of his first team players are out of the game.
The long list includes Basudeb Mondal (fever), Hardeep Saini, Akuneto Chukuwama, Ashim Biswas, Imran Khan, Marcos Pareira and Abhay Kumar (all injured). While Ashim and Imran won’t be back before the National Football League, Aloke doesn’t want to risk Marcos before the derby against East Bengal on September 4.
Basudeb’s absence is really worrying the coach. “He is a player who has the ability to hold the ball in the midfield. His absence is a real blow,” the coach said after practice on Wednesday.
However, the coach made it clear they won’t be going into their shells, whatever the situation be. “At least to complete the league in a reasonable position, we have got to win tomorrow,” he said.
And to help him achieve his goal, Jose Ramirez Barreto will once again be Aloke’s trump card. “He is the pillar of strength of my team. I hope he comes good.”
In the absence of Marcos, Sunil Chettri will partner the Brazilian upfront.
Also, some of the newcomers like Shyambabu Rout and Bhola Dey may get a game.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the players have not got their dues for the past two months. A senior player informed that though there is discontent among the players, the fact that they are not performing is stopping them from demanding it.
“If we win tomorrow, we will surely demand our dues,” the player said.
On the other hand, Mohammedan Sporting are not in a good shape either. While Satish Bharti and Sheikh Sanjib are out with double bookings, ’keeper Mohammed Refeek is nursing an injury.
Goalkeeper Bivash Ghosh, who has been on the sidelines for quite some time, is likely to make a comeback.
Mohammedan Sporting, in their attempt to bolster the team, are looking to play Rahim Nabi, who has been released from the under-20 camp in Jamshedpur on Wednesday. But there is a catch.
While his club claims that the player has been “thrown out” of the camp, the AIFF made it clear he was released because he complained of a knee injury.
The AIFF secretary Alberto Colaco said the player will have to undergo a check-up under the supervision of the AIFF doctor Manab Bhattacharya, and if he is deemed fit, he has to go back to the camp.
The club secretary Sultan Ahmed said Nabi was treated shoddily by coach Stephen Constantine. “We’ll lodge a protest against the coach to the AIFF,” Ahmed said.
Mohun Bagan have 22 points from nine games while Mohammedan Sporting have 18 from nine.