Calcutta: For McDowell Mohun Bagan, the IFA Shield is an opportunity to redeem their season.
Bagan, who start their Shield campaign with a Group B game against Pune FC at the Kalyani Stadium, on Tuesday, have been mired in numerous controversies throughout the season. And a triumph in the tournament will do Bagan a world of good. Not only will it provide them with the confidence to save relegation in the I-League, it might also propel them in their endeavour to regain the CFL, too.
“If we do well in the IFA Shield, it will certainly help us in our most important goal, that of saving relegation in I-League,” said coach Karim Bencharifa.
Bagan are in ominous form, having being unbeaten for 10 matches in all competitions. However, Pune FC, who are currently placed fourth in the I-League, might prove to be formidable opponents.
“They are tough opponents… But we will be ready for the challenge,” Bencharifa said. Prayag United SC, on the other hand, also start their campaign on Tuesday, as they take on Pailan Arrows at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri.
Arrows might have lost their first match, but their spirited show against East Bengal has kept the last edition’s runners-up in a spot of bother.
“They are a really good and energetic side. Their players are young and run very fast… They can catch us off-guard. So we need to be alert. We are not taking them lightly,” said United SC’s Costa Rican recruit Carlos Hernandez.
The Indian Football Association (IFA) confirmed ONGC as the fourth team in Group A. ONGC will replace Bangladesh’s Muktijoddha Sanshad and will play their first match against East Bengal on Wednesday.
ONGC’s group was decided by lottery. Bizarre it may sound, but that’s exactly what happened. Bagan demanded since Deportivo Saprissa are a far more superior team than ONGC, their grouping should be decided by lottery!