| Sunil Chetri and Jayanta Sen during a practice session at the club ground on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: East Bengal would try to keep the memories of their dismal show in the first stage of the I-League behind and make a fresh start when they begin their title defence in the Federation Cup on Thursday.
The defending champions would take on minnows New Delhi Heroes in their first group C match and need a big win to lift their morale after suffering three consecutive defeats in their last three I-League matches.
East Bengal have to fight it out with I-League leaders Sporting Clube de Goa and JCT in group C for a place in the last four.
The red and gold brigade would aim to win with a big margin as goal difference might eventually turn out to be the deciding factor in the group for the lone berth in the semi-finals.
In the other match on Thursday, JCT will take on Sporting Clube de Goa.
New Delhi Heroes, who have qualified for the first time in the main quarter final league of the Federation Cup, have a known face in Chima Okorie as the teams coach.
The former Nigerian international has a first hand knowledge of Calcutta football from his stint as a footballer with the major city clubs.
East Bengal coach Stanley Rozario didnt rule out the importance of Chimas presence.
Chima Okorie was a big footballer. They are a good side, Rozario said when asked about his opponents.
East Bengal will miss the services of Surkumar Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi and M. Suresh. However, Alvito d Cunha is understood to be fit.
Rozario, who is under tremendous pressure after his sides poor show in the I-League, admitted that it was going to be difficult for East Bengal in the tournament.
Our group is the toughest. Our path to the last four will be very difficult, he said.
He, however, dismissed that the team were under extra pressure.
Were not under pressure. The boys are all charged up and we are confident of doing well, the East Bengal coach said.