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Fit-again Mehtab ready for Shield

Calcutta: A fit-again East Bengal captain Mehtab Hussain will be available for the IFA Shield, which starts from Wednesday.

The midfielder sustained a knee injury during the I-League Derby against Mohun Bagan last November and was subsequently ruled out of action. He was slowly recuperating when coach Armando Colaco decided to field him in a Calcutta league match against Army XI on January 2. However, the plan backfired as Mehtab could continue only till the 71st minute and had to be taken off. He has been out of action since.

On Friday, though, he was back to training. Later, he confirmed he would be ready to take the field in East Bengal’s opening fixture against Bushan Kion Tong on Wednesday.

“I trained after a long time today. I am feeling a lot better. I have spoken to my doctors… They have assured me that I can take the field on January 29. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” said Mehtab.

Mehtab’s availability certainly comes as a huge boost for East Bengal, who have run into poor form of late, losing the CFL Derby and failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the Fed Cup. East Bengal officials will hold discussions with Colaco and review the side’s performance before the Shield.

Speaking about their chances in the Shield, Mehtab said: “We cannot keep mulling about the past. Instead, our failures should spur us on. We are in a tough group and have to get our act right from the start.”

East Bengal are in Group A with United SC, Singapore’s Geylang International and Busan Kion Tong of South Korea. Group B features Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting, United Sikkim and Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club.

Following their ouster in the semi-final of the Fed Cup, Mohun Bagan players returned to the city in batches on Saturday. They will resume practice on Monday.