| Syed Rahim Nabi (from left), Stanley and Okolie Odafe share a laugh during Mohun Bagan’s practice session at the club ground on Friday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: McDowell Mohun Bagan’s interim coach Mridul Banerjee was a confident man, on Friday — the eve of his team’s I-League match against Salgaocar.
Speaking after the practice session, Banerjee said: “We have some definite plans for Salgaocar. If the boys can execute them, we will secure three points. We promise to play better football and score.”
The reason behind Banerjee’s confidence is Bagan’s recent showings since his arrival, where the green-and-maroon brigade impressed in some I-League and Calcutta Football League Premier Division matches.
One may say that Bagan have played against the comparatively lowly teams in Air India, ONGC and Sporting Clube de Goa in the I-League. However, it cannot be denied that their performances lately has boosted the morale of the team ahead of their big test against Salgaocar, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Saturday.
The clash will test Bagan’s fragile defence — it conceded five goals in five matches — against Salgaocar’s forward line. Bagan are likely to field Nirmal Chetri, Aiborlang Khongjee, Celestine Iche and Biswajit Saha in their defence.
Upfront, Okolie Odafe, who has been inconsistent so far, will try to prove a point. He scored a hat-trick against Sporting Clube, but other than that, there is nothing to write home about.
The Bagan captain is likely to play as a single striker with countrymate Stanley taking the role of a ‘roving’ one. The magnitude of the clash gets multiplied because it involves a certain Karim Bencharifa.
Though the Moroccan will not be present in the stadium, his influence as the former Salgaocar coach and the future Bagan coach is bound to have an effect on the game.
Banerjee, though, emphasised on handing over the team’s reins to Karim on a winning note. “I want to welcome Karim on a happy note. We don’t want to lose the match,” said Banerjee.
But David Booth, who replaced Bencharifa, is gearing up to spoil Banerjee’s hopes.
“Karim did a good job with the side in the past two seasons.
“But then, it will be a different situation on Saturday. We are confident of a win.”
Salgaocar will be missing one of their foreign recruits Filipino striker Angel Guirado, who is busy doing national duty. However, the other three foreigners — Luciano Sabrosa, Quinton Jacobs and Sean Rooney — will be ready for the tie.
Bagan, on the other hand, will miss midfielder Manish Maithani, while goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya is also uncertain.