Calcutta: The East Bengal camp seems pretty upset with the very little gap between the IFA Shield final and the upcoming I-League fixtures.
Yes, it’s not guaranteed that they will play the final, which has been slotted for February 15. But if they do, they will then have to play a crucial I-League match against Churchill Brothers on February 18.
As of now, it was coach Armando Colaco who kept saying that the I-League is of much more importance than the ongoing IFA Shield. On Thursday, the players echoed the opinion of the coach.
“Look, there’s no denying the fact the I-League is much, much more important to us than any other tournament. We had a disappointing Federation Cup. So, the best way to make up for that disappointment is by putting up a solid performance in our remaining I-League matches,” said Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, after a practice session on Thursday.
According to Colaco, his men need more time to prepare than “just one or two days” before going into a tough opposition in Churchill. “Churchill are no more like the side that fared poorly in most of the matches during the first phase of the I-League.
“They are a completely different side after having won the Federation Cup. It would have been better had we got more days to get ourselves prepared for that difficult game. But there’s no other option at the moment. I’m really disappointed with the schedule, but we don’t seem to have any other choice,” Colaco commented.
Fitness issues still remain a concern for East Bengal as central defenders Uga Okpara and Gurwinder Singh will take a little more time to be 100 per cent fit. “Apart from Uga and Gurwinder, there’s a bit of tiredness in (Ryuji) Sueoka and (Edeh) Chidi as well. Mehtab (Hussain) and Khabra are recovering well though,” Colaco said, adding: “Now, despite all the odds, the team has still managed to reach the (Shield) semi-finals, which is certainly creditable.
“Even though we aren’t scoring too many goals, but the fact that we are creating lots of chances is a big plus point.”