Calcutta: East Bengal coach Marcos Falopa is in a mood to gamble.
With Ryuji Sueoka ruled out for two months, and hardly any alternative, the Brazilian is set to gamble on yet-to-be fit Cavin Lobo in the first-leg of the AFC Cup semi-final against Kuwait SC. Cavin is expected to be in the 18-man squad which leaves for Kuwait City on Saturday.
Lobo had injured his knee during the first-leg quarter-final tie against Semen Padang and did not travel to Padang.
The midfielder did have a light training at the club ground on Thursday and coach Falopa was hopeful of the former getting back to shape before the all-important game slated for October 1.
“Although a final decision is yet to be taken, there is a possibility of Lobo coming in as a replacement for Sueoka. He’s gaining fitness and on our part, we are doing our best to make him available as we need to be prepared in the best way possible. Let’s see how he shapes up,” Falopa said.
Not just the AFC Cup semi-final, but East Bengal will miss Sueoka for quite a few I-League matches as well, something that would surely raise concerns, especially against stronger opponents.
His MRI scan on Wednesday confirmed that the Japanese would have to be out of action for two months. “The MRI report has shown that Sueoka has sustained a medial collateral ligament injury. There’s an effusion in his knee. It will take some three weeks or so for recovery and the rehab may take even longer.
“The reflexes are more affected with this kind of injury, especially at his age,” a club official said.
Falopa might well say “it’s my time now in East Bengal”, but with barely four days to go before locking horns with the Kuwaiti outfit, the Brazilian seems to be feeling a little bit of pressure as well.
“Kuwait SC are a very strong side. They look even stronger when playing at home. At times, it becomes difficult for the visiting side to even play out a draw against them. “They tend to make excellent use of the home conditions… No doubt about that,” the 64-year-old observed.
Captain Mehtab Hussain continues to be optimistic of his team’s chances, but also admits being a bit tired for having to play too many matches of late.
“Not many days have gone since my return after the SAFF Championship. After I returned, I played the home match (against Semen Padang) and again travelled for the away tie.
“The entire schedule has been a hectic one. But I’m not complaining because at this level, you can’t look for excuses.
“We know we have a tough job ahead because Kuwait SC are a much better team.
“But in football anything can happen. We need to ensure we cash in on their mistakes.