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Momentum with East Bengal

Calcutta: McDowell Mohun Bagan will have to rise above the script when they face Kingfisher East Bengal in an I-League match, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Sunday.

East Bengal, who have 21 points from nine matches, are the firm favourites. But then in a Derby clash form doesn’t matter. It’s all about who makes fewer mistakes on that particular day. Whoever hold their nerves, will leave the field with a beaming face.

Mohun Bagan will take a lot of positives from their 2-2 draw against Pune FC in a match where at one point they were 0-2 down. That match could be the turnaround for a team, which is struggling to find feet this season. And then they have a new coach Karim Bencharifa, who during his earlier stint with the club, had quite a few Derby victories under his belt. “East Bengal have been playing together for some time now. But they do have their weaknesses. They are not invincibles,” the Moroccan said at the club ground on Saturday.

Very true… East Bengal may have a very stable look but still they were caught on the wrong-foot many a times. Still, when Bagan were chopping coach at the drop of a hat, their arch-rivals were pragmatic enough to understand the advantage of having a coach on a long-term basis.

“I think I am at the right time at the right place,” a smiling Trevor James Morgan said on Saturday when it was asked that how he felt about his team’s brilliant run since he took over. Most of the players are together for a long time and that has helped Morgan to build a team, which is capable of beating any side on any given day.

East Bengal’s frontline is on song with Edeh Chidi and Manandeep Singh teaming up well. Chidi may not have the speed of Tolgay Ozebe but has fitted very well in Morgan’s scheme of things. For the record, the Nigerian had scored four for Bagan against his present team on that October 25, 2009. “Would like to see him scoring five,” Morgan said.

Manandeep has been a revelation. The goal he scored against Churchill a few weeks back was a stunner. “Hope to score one tomorrow,” a shy Manandeep said after much prodding. Chidi and Manandeep will get ample support on the flanks from Ishfaq Ahmed and Harmonjyot Singh Khabra who are the two players always ready to give more than 100 per cent. Ishfaq and Harmonjyot do so much of hardwork — strangely most of it goes unnoticed — that the two lateral backs Naoba Singh and Soumik Dey have also started looking dangerous.

It is very unlikely that Bencharifa will go for the jugular. Instead he will adopt safety-first approach. His favourite during his previous Bagan stint, Rakesh Masih, is expected to get a start in the midfield and that means the Moroccan has a plan to nullify the Penn Orji threat.

Bagan back-four will be put under severe test and Aiborlang Khongjee and Mehrajuddin Wadoo, the two central defenders, will have to play out of their skins. How the duo handle the Chidi-Manandeep threat remains to be seen.

For Bagan, this season has been all about Okolie Odafe and Sunday will be no different. He has that knack to rising to the occasion... Running away with all the accolades right from under the nose of the opposition.

And if that happens again on Sunday, there will be no looking back for Bagan.