Calcutta: East Bengal start as firm favourites when they take on Pailan Arrows in a Group A match of the IFA Shield, at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, on Sunday.
East Bengal are on a roll. They are the table-toppers in the I-League, much ahead of the pack in the CFL and played one of their best matches of the season in the AFC Cup opener against Selangor FA.
So on Sunday afternoon against Arrows, East Bengal are expected to have a cakewalk. But the problem is lack of motivation.
Over the years the IFA Shield has lost its sheen. And this time, after numerous pullouts and fixture changes, the scenario is quite comical.
For days East Bengal knew their lung-opener would be against Lajong. Then Muktijoddha of Bangladesh pulled out citing visa problems and Arrows are now in Group A along with East Bengal and Prayag United SC.
The fourth team is yet to be announced. That itself speaks the way the IFA has handled this tournament. They have already done their bit with the CFL and are now going all out to ‘kill’ the Shield also.
East Bengal may not go on record, but deep down they also know that IFA Shield is a major headache for them at a time when they are gunning for the I-League.
“It’s a major headache for us,” a senior footballer said on Saturday. “But for the Siliguri fans, this is an opportunity to see their favourite club once again after the Federation Cup.”
East Bengal have a huge fan following in Siliguri and the fans there will be eagerly waiting to see their favourite club in action. During the Federation Cup, the crowd support was one of the reasons behind East Bengal’s triumph.
Trevor James Morgan will be without Raju Gaekwad, Mehtab Hossain and Robin Singh who are busy with the Indian team.