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Okpara injury a concern

Calcutta: Since his arrival as coach, Armando Colaco has always zeroed in on fitness being a concern for East Bengal.

Lack of proper fitness level has hurt the side on quite a few occasions this season. Unavailability of some key players, due to injuries, was a major reason behind East Bengal’s disappointing Federation Cup campaign.

With barely three days to go for the IFA Shield, the team might just have further reasons to worry. Uga Okpara, mainstay of the red-and-gold defence, has yet to recover completely from his hamstring injury, which makes him a doubtful starter for East Bengal’s Shield opener.

East Bengal begin their campaign against South Korea’s Busan Kion Tong, on Wednesday, at the Barasat Stadium, also the tournament opener.

What could make matters uncomfortable for Okpara is his playing the Federation Cup matches despite not being 100 per cent fit. The Nigerian, however, was present during Saturday’s practice session at the club ground, though he didn’t undergo full-fledged training.

Captain Mehtab Hussain said: “We are still hopeful of Uga’s timely recovery. But he’s the best judge when it comes to playing Wednesday’s match.”