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Odafa likely to miss Derby

Okolie Odafa

Calcutta: Officially, the cloud over Mohun Bagan star Okolie Odafa’s availability for Saturday’s Derby still persists as the club hasn’t come out with any announcement. But unofficially, the striker is as good as out of the ‘big’ match.

Odafa restricted himself to jogging and short sprints at Wednesday’s practice session. He underwent a check-up by team doctor Pratim Roy on the sidelines of the practice session.

While a section of the club officials are keen to include Odafa in the 18-member squad for the Derby to keep the pressure on East Bengal, sources claimed that the Nigerian has negligible chances of taking the field.

Odafa has a hamstring injury — haematoma according to the team doctor Pratim. Though he has received treatment, chances of him being match fit before Saturday are slim.

While the Bagan camp is worried about Odafa, East Bengal seem to be very disturbed with the Uga Okpara controversy. The defender had returned to homeland Nigeria without informing the club.

Sources claimed that Okpara, who has an injury concern, would return to the city on Wednesday night.

Coach Armando Colaco didn’t speak much on Okpara, but he did make it clear that he is focussed on the upcoming Derby. “It’s quite a difficult challenge… It’s obvious that our confidence has taken a beating after the loss against Dempo… We played very well in that match, but the red card to Gurwinder (Singh) changed everything. As the coach, I will have to boost the morale of my team. We have to win the Derby to regain our confidence,” Colaco said after Wednesday’s practice session at the club ground.

“Every match is important… But I know that this match is extra special in this city. Plus, you can’t ignore any match if you want to win the I-League,” he added.

But aren’t East Bengal chances of I-League triumph slim? Is he still hopeful? “I’m hopeful… We first have to win the Derby to safeguard our position. Then we have to ensure that we play well in the rest of the league… If the other teams drop points, anything is possible,” an optimistic Colaco said.

Colaco also informed that apart from Okpara, Edeh Chidi, Robert Lalthlamuana and Raju Gaikwad also have injury worries. “But we are not thinking about the negatives, we will give our best on Saturday,” promised Colaco.