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Mehtab may get a start

James Moga, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra and Mehtab Hussain, during a practice session. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Despite having drawn their opening encounter in the IFA Shield, East Bengal are not showing the urgency to go all out for a victory against Geylang International at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.

At least coach Armando Colaco is not willing to read much into the club’s fortunes in the IFA Shield. The I-League remains his priority.

“People should understand that winning and losing is part of the game. There’s just too much of pressure in Calcutta. You are expected to win each and every match, something which is humanly not possible,” said the East Bengal coach after a practice session at the club ground on Friday.

“To talk about IFA Shield, I have already said that this tournament doesn’t feature in our priority list. As far as tomorrow’s match is concerned, players will try their best to win. If they can’t, it won’t be the end of the world.

“I’m not giving much importance to Shield. I have said it earlier... Our focus is the I-League, which East Bengal haven’t been able to win... In fact, it’s been Goan teams that have been dominating the I-League over the last few years. I want to bring in a change this time around,” said Colaco.

He is looking the tournament as a learning curve for the youngsters.

“I see the Shield as a good learning experience for our youngsters like Abhishek Das and Seiminlen (Doungel), who could get a start tomorrow.

“Geylang is an unknown commodity for me. So we’ll have to see and weigh our options when the game gets underway tomorrow.”

East Bengal are toying with the idea of bringing in a few changes to the line-up on Saturday. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu may come in place of Abhra Mondal as goalkeeper, while Lalrindika Ralte is likely to replace Joaquim Abranches in the midfield. Mehtab Hussain, too, could be a part of the starting XI.

Mehtab, for his part, said he’s ready to be part of the starting line-up. “We don’t have much idea about Geylang. But we know for sure that it won’t be easy for us…

“If the coach feels I should start, I’m ready for it.”

East Bengal last played Geylang in the 2004 AFC Cup with the red and gold brigade beating them 3-2 in Singapore before being held 1-1 at home.

The team arrived here after a 16-hour long flight via Bangkok and practised in the afternoon. They have five foreigners in their ranks — three Argentines and two Japanese — and are positive about their chances.

In another match on Saturday, United FC will meet Busan Sun Moon FC.