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EB face an uphill task
- Bhutia banks on home support

Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal will be looking to register their first win of the I-League as they prepare to take on an upbeat United Sikkim Football Club (USFC) at the Paljor Stadium, Gangtok on Thursday.

East Bengal didn’t get off to a start that they would like to have in the competition. They missed plenty of chances in their first match as they drew against Sporting Clube de Goa. And the Federation Cup champions will have an uphill task against USFC who will be brimming with confidence after getting off to a rousing start.

USFC displayed some skilful football as they stunned Salgaocar 3-2 in their first match. Their brilliant performance made the club’s co-owner Bhaichung Bhutia optimistic about the team’s chances against East Bengal.

“A victory in the first match made a huge difference for us… Since we were playing at our home, there was a bit of pressure. But winning the match gave us a lot of confidence and relieved us of any pressure.

“We have a home advantage and I believe we can beat any I-League club on our home ground,” Bhaichung said.

“Our main aim is to survive I-League this season and we are counting a lot on home matches to get points. I will be happy even if we draw against East Bengal,” he added.

Bhaichung, who started his career with East Bengal two decades ago, however, ruled out his chances of playing in the match. “I think I will be match fit for our next match against Dempo SC,” he informed.

United Sikkim go into the match without attacking midfielder Raju Debnath who sustained a ligament injury in their last match. He has been ruled out for almost three months.

The red-and-gold brigade, on the other hand, are also fretting over Manandeep Singh’s injury. He injured his leg in the first match.

East Bengal will also have to recover from exhaustion and adjust to the weather conditions as they travelled from the hot and humid Goa to the chilly Gangtok.

In fact, East Bengal had a tiring road journey of nearly 5 hours from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok.