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‘Khabra is like Nabi’

Calcutta: East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan is not giving much importance to the fact that his team will be up against a team who are at the bottom of the I-League table.

“Realistically speaking ,they are a top-five team... You cannot say we have the advantage. It’s Mohun Bagan after all. If you see FA Cup big teams like Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool have lost to teams from Division One or Two, so table-topper and bottom team don’t really matter,” Morgan said after the practice session on Friday.

“We will be going for three points. A draw will nullify the good wins we recorded in the last two matches. This match is as important as the next match we have against Air India,” he said.

The I-League for the record is taking a break after this round (20th) and will restart on March 23. India will be playing the AFC Challenge Cup in Myanmar and five players (Arnab Mondal, Raju Gaikwad, Mehtab Hussain and Robin Singh) are on the probables list, which was announced on Friday.

“Our real battle will be playing the CFL and AFC Cup without the main players.”

AFC Cup is sort of a botheration for East Bengal. For the last two years, participating in the AFC Cup had hampered East Bengal’s chances in the I-League, which the club wants to win badly. “It’s tough on the players you see. Travelling for 16 hours to play in an AFC Cup away match and coming back and within three days you have an I-league match! The players are human beings. You cannot expect to them maintain the same level of intensity when you have tired limbs.

Morgan picked out Syed Rahim Nabi as the key man for Bagan. “He is a versatile player… But we also have (Harmanjyot Singh) Khabra who is equally good. Khabra can play in any position and he never shirks away from responsibility,” he said.

Last 5 meetings

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have won twice each in their last five meetings with one ending in a draw.
April 9, 2011: I-League — East Bengal 2 (Tolgay, Baljit) Mohun Bagan 1 (Surkumar).
Nov. 20, 2011: I-League —Bagan 1 (Odafe) East Bengal 0
Jan. 7, 2012: CFL —Bagan 2 (Odafe, Manish Bhargav) East Bengal 0.
Feb. 4, 2012: I-League — East Bengal 1 (Robin) Bagan 1 (Odafe)
Dec. 9, 2012: I-League — East Bengal 1 (Khabra) Bagan 0 (Abandoned).
Note: The December 9 Derby was abandoned after Bagan pulled out before the second half citing security reasons. The All India Football Federation awarded the match to East Bengal.
Compiled by Hariprasad Chattopadhyay