|Karim Bencharifa and Christopher Chizoba during a practice session,
at the club ground, on Friday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: On any other occasion, it would have been said that Mohun Bagan are up against their nemesis, considering Dempo’s superior record over the former in the I-League.
But when the two teams clash in Saturday’s Round XIV tie, here at the Salt Lake Stadium, Bagan find themselves with an ideal opportunity to pile on the Goan giants’ agony.
It’s not that the green-and-maroon brigade are placed wonderfully at the league table, but Dempo are just above the drop zone, at 11th. In addition, Karim Bencharifa’s men would be up against a side that is struggling to put together even an 18-man squad because of injuries and bookings. The visitors don’t even have any idea as to when coach Arthur Papas — out on leave — will return and rejoin the squad.
The situation, thus, beckons Bagan to put in a dominating show and secure a convincing win against a depleted line-up. Besides, watering the ground won’t be a factor, as well, as the action now moves on to the artificial turf, which in any case is a lot drier than natural surfaces.
Bagan, no doubt, have gathered at least some sort of steam, having secured four points from their last two appearances. But by Bencharifa’s own admission, the team will gain consistency only if they clinch a victory in this weekend tie.
“We are still looking for consistency. If we win tomorrow, only then can we say we’re on the way to being really consistent,” the Bagan coach said.
Bagan are unlikely to make any changes in their starting XI that is set to feature Sandip Nandy under the bar, Anyichie Echezona and Kingshuk Debnath as the central defenders, Pritam Kotal and Shouvik Ghosh as the side-backs, Denson Devadas and Katsumi Yusa in the central midfield with Ram Malik and Manish Bhargav on the flanks.
Okolie Odafe and Christopher Chizoba are the men up front.
For Dempo, however, there seems to be a semblance of a chance for fullback Simon Colosimo’s return even though they will be without seasoned campaigners Debabrata Ray (hamstring injury) and Peter Carvalho (double booking).
The odds may well be stacked in favour of Bagan, but being the wise man that Bencharifa is, he warned that Dempo shouldn’t be taken lightly at all.
“We can’t afford to underestimate a team like Dempo. Even without any foreigner in their side, they did manage to hold United SC in their previous match, which is certainly a decent show.”