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Bagan hold the edge
- NATIONAL LEAGUE - Vasco coach rates EB as toughest opponent

Mumbai: Calcutta giants Mohun Bagan seem to hold an edge over local challengers Mahindra United when the teams clash in a second-round fixture of the National Football League on Thursday.

All eyes will be on Mohun Bagan’s crafty forward Jose Ramirez Barreto, who had a magnificent outing in his team’s opening match against Mohammedan Sporting on Friday.

Also hogging the limelight will be the two new Brazilian recruits — striker Eduardo Rebeiro and central midfielder Leonardo Monorat — who obtained international clearance on Monday.

Mohun Bagan, three-time champions, are a little bit handicapped in absence of first-choice goalkeeper Prasanta Dora and central defender Sanjeev Maria.

According to coach Aloke Mukherjee, Rennedy Singh has aggravated his leg injury and is likely to miss Thursday’s match.

Even then, the Mohun Bagan midfield of Mehtab Hussain, Rocus Lamare and Hardeep Gill looks good. Others like Palash Karmakar and Basudeb Mondal could come in handy in this position too.

Bagan’s real strength lies up front where Barreto is looking good to come back to his best and there is also an Ashim Biswas to count upon. These two really constitute a strong attacking line.

The hosts, after winning the Federation Cup and the Super Cup, disappointed in their opening National League match when they went down 0-2 to Goan outfit Dempo on Sunday.

With star midfielder S. Venkatesh yet to recover from injury, Mahindra will have to play both Raphael Patron Akakpo and Felix Aboagye even though the coach is not too happy with them.

Goalkeeper Kalyan Chowbey may be replaced with Naseem Akhtar but the defence will remain the same in the hands of Sanjay Parte, Covan Lawrence, Ordartey Lawson and Arun Malhotra. Their main options in midfield are Jinto Jose, Khalid Jamil, Jules Alberto and James Singh.

East Bengal’s time to deliver

In Margao, holders East Bengal will have to lift their game drastically when they take on Vasco. East Bengal started on a disappointing note, losing to Salgaocar 1-2 on Sunday and can’t afford another setback.

“I expect my team to realise the mistakes committed against Salgaocar and put up an improved performance against Vasco,” said coach Subhas Bhowmick.

Vasco coach Derrick Pereira rated East Bengal as the toughest opponent in the competition and also as the most experienced side.

“We will try and put pressure on them and plan negate the likes of Mike Okoro and Bhaichung Bhutia early in the game,” he said. (PTI)

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