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No end to Bagan woes

- SHILTON PAUL MAY RETURN; ODAFA OUT OF SHIELD

Aiborlang Khongjee and Karim Bencharifa, on Friday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: There seems to be no end to Mohun Bagan’s woes.

After Okolie Odafa was ruled out of the IFA Shield, having aggravated his hamstring injury, Denson Devadas is set to miss Saturday’s game with an ankle injury.

Bagan need at least a draw, on Saturday, in the Group II tie against Dhanmondi Club of Bangladesh to reach the semi-finals. East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting have already confirmed their berths in the last-four stage.

Bagan have to win by at least a four-goal margin to avoid East Bengal in the semi-final.

Denson, though, will be part of the 18-man squad for Saturday’s crucial tie, here, at the Salt Lake Stadium. Aiborlang Khongjee is likely to replace Denson and will occupy the position from where the latter operates.

“The scenario we face is a bit complicated because both draw and victory would take us through to the semis. Why I say this is because such a scenario can affect your frame of mind and at the same time have an effect on the motivation level,” explained Karim after Friday’s practice session.

Karim, however, is confident that he will tide over this crisis. “I’ve faced such situations before and can overcome it again,” he said.

“Dhanmondi have a clear idea — win or perish. All said and done, we need to be on our toes as the individual skills of Dhanmondi players are better than that of ours.

“But mind you, Mohammedan Sporting have shown us that Dhanmondi, too, can be defeated. So, in that sense, we also have a chance,” Karim added.

Now, Dhanmondi's aggressive style, a striking feature of their game, could go on to have the inconsistent Bagan defence in trouble.

Goalkeeper Monotosh Ghosh, who put in a superb performance in Bagan’s barren draw against Mohammedan Sporting, may have to sit out. Regular goalie Shilton Paul, who was down with a shoulder injury, is fit and likely to be back.

Odafa’s injury has only complicated Mohun Bagan’s problems. He’s also doubtful in the initial stages when the I-League resumes next week.

“I’m being treated now by another doctor. According to him, I’ll be able to return only after the next 10 to 12 days. That’s when I may come back,” said Odafa.

In another match, United SC will need a draw against Geylang International in a Group I tie to advance to the last-four stage.