| Harmanjyot Singh Khabra |
Calcutta: Armando Colaco returns for an emotional clash against Dempo Sports Club but knows there is no place for any sentiment as his new club, East Bengal, hunt for the three points that will keep them alive in the Airtel I-League title race.
East Bengal have blown hot and cold since Colaco took over, but the former Dempo coach believes it is the clash against his former team at Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, on Sunday that will show whether his team is among the title chasers.
“We have three matches in hand, but this is the match that will define our title chase. If we do not get full points, our chances will be as good as dead. It will be very difficult,” said Colaco.
East Bengal only managed a goalless draw against Churchill Brothers in the previous game, and with arch-rivals Mohun Bagan waiting for the next clash next Saturday, Colaco said this is a must-win game.
“We must boost our confidence by winning against Dempo. We are not exactly playing the best football we can but we will get there,” said the former India coach.
East Bengal are without Nigerian defender Uga Okpara and Colaco is likely to start with Raju Gaekwad and Arnab Mondal at the centre of defence. Harmanjyot Singh Khabra will start as right-back after Colaco dropped the under-performing Abhishek Das from the 18-man squad.
Dempo Sports Club gave a good account of themselves, scoring a fairly comfortable victory over bottom-placed Rangdajied United FC, but coach Arthur Papas believes the team can do even better.
“This is a culmination of all the good work that we have been doing since the Federation Cup. It is important to maintain the winning momentum,” said Papas.
Papas couldn’t resist rubbing salt into East Bengal’s wounds.
“There is hardly any youngster playing there. (Trevor) Morgan built a great team there and that should have been allowed to continue. (But) they are now the long ball specialists; there is not much passing football. It’s a shame they play this way,” the Dempo Sports Club coach said.
Dempo are expected to retain the team that defeated Rangdajied with Tolgay Ozebe and Alwyn George spearheading the attack. Brazilian Beto is another attacking option and then there is Sanju Pradhan that he can always count upon.
Dempo are placed sixth with 19 points from 16 matches, while East Bengal also have the same number of points, and are placed seventh.
Dempo were composed in their 2-0 victory over Rangdajied, a result made possible largely due to influential recent signings like Tolgay Ozbey, Haroon Amiri and Sanju Pradhan.
Then there are the youngsters from the now-defunct Pailan Arrows who have come of age, heralding a new era at record-breaking Dempo.