| East Bengal’s Andrew Barisic and Edeh Chidi, on Saturday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: In an ideal situation, Trevor James Morgan would have liked to see Kingfisher East Bengal skipping the IFA Shield. But then the situation doesn’t have to be ideal all the time. No matter how punishing the schedule is, you have to go by the book.
So, here we are for another Derby in just over a month.
On Sunday evening, at the Salt Lake Stadium, the defending champions are up against McDowell Mohun Bagan in the second semi-final of the IFA Shield and by Morgan’s own admission it will be helluva match.
“Yes it will be a difficult match. After all the travelling in the last few days we could have avoided this match. But we are in the semi-final and two wins away from winning another trophy. It’s no point talking about the fixture congestion. Instead we are focussed on Sunday’s Derby clash,” Morgan said after a practice session, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Saturday morning.
Back from Vietnam where they fought gallantly before eking out a draw against Sai Gon Xuan Thanh, East Bengal are on a high. The draw saw them ending their winless away streak in AFC Cup. The result also gives them the confidence before Sunday’s Derby clash.
Morgan is unlikely to tinker with the playing eleven, which played against Sai Gon Xuan Thanh. Barring of course fourth foreigner Andrew Barisic who will make way for either Robin Singh or Baljit Singh.
If East Bengal are on a roll — they are unbeaten in 13 matches — their Sunday opponents also have been playing well of late.
Agreed they lost to Deportivo Saprissa in the group league but Bagan finally seem to have got into a groove. It’s not Okolie Odafe who is getting the goals these days, but promising CS Sabeeth also is hitting the back of the net regularly.
The defence, which was much vilified throughout the season, is managing to get its shape right. In the February 9 Derby, the Bagan central defenders — Aiborlang Khongjee and Anyichie Echezona — were just brilliant. On Sunday though Anyichie will partner Mehrajuddin Wadoo with Aiborlang playing as the left back.
That’s because Syed Rahim Nabi has been ruled out of the Derby clash.
If Bagan play like the way they did in that I-League Derby with a certain improvements in certain areas then they can surely hope for a favourable result.
It remains to be seen whether coach Karim Bencharifa will go with Quinton Jacobs or Tolgay Ozebe as the third foreigner. Tolgay is a pale shadow of what he was with East Bengal.