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Banking on team effort: Mehtab

Calcutta: Not just on paper, but in terms of quality as well, East Bengal are a few notches ahead of Mohun Bagan. The standings though, portray a different picture as Bagan are placed at No.8 with 10 points, while East Bengal are 10th with just seven points.

But according to East Bengal captain Mehtab Hussain, it’s better for his team if they start as underdogs at the Sunday Derby. Also, collective effort, and not individual brilliance, will have the last say, opined Mehtab.

“An East Bengal-Mohun Bagan match is always a pressure game. The team that handles pressure better will come out on top. But I feel we could be better off if we start as underdogs, irrespective of the strengths and weaknesses of the two sides,” the medio said after East Bengal’s training session, here, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Saturday.

“To win these big matches, you need to bank on team effort because that’s the most important thing. Performing as a unit helps you win matches.

“So as far as tomorrow’s match is concerned, each of us need to step up and give more than 100 per cent. Only then can we move ahead in effecting a favourable result,” Mehtab added.

Back on Thursday during his first practice session as East Bengal coach, Armando Colaco had categorically mentioned about the fitness issues of Uga Okpara (groin injury) and James Moga (back pain).

Although he assured that both are ready to be part of the team, Colaco termed Edeh Chidi and Shylo ‘Mama’ Malsawmtluanga as the two fittest players in the entire squad.

“Chidi and Mama are in best shape when it comes to fitness. As far as the fitness level of others are concerned, it ought to have been addressed during the pre-season training itself,” he remarked.

For Colaco, Ryuji Sueoka and Harmanjyot Singh Khabra are players who can play in any position. “Sueoka and Khabra are utility players. They can play anywhere. With the team at our disposal, I will certainly try and bring the I-League back to Calcutta,” he assured.

The rival defence might be a bit short on experience, but by no means is the East Bengal camp taking them lightly. “Just because there no foreigners doesn’t mean Bagan are weak in defence. Rather, it’s an opportunity for their youngsters to prove themselves,” explained Chidi.

According to Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa, the Derby debutants — Katsumi Yusa, Pritam Kotal, Shouvik Ghosh to name a few — are simply brimming with confidence.

“They are all very confident, especially the young brigade. I can see it that they are very excited to be there in the middle tomorrow. Each of the players in the team are prepared for everything and know exactly what to expect,” he said.

Eric Muranda’s inclusion will be a boost to the team, emphasised Bencharifa.