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East Bengal taking one match at a time

- Title race still wide open, asserts Armando
Ryuji Sueoka (from left), Baljit Singh Sahni, Edeh Chidi and Gurwinder Singh take ice bath in the jacuzzi, at the club tent, on Tuesday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Leave aside trying to win the championship, Kingfisher East Bengal are finding it difficult even to win two matches on the trot in this I-League.

Inconsistency has been plaguing them right from the start of the season. Nonetheless, the comprehensive 3-1 win over Rangdajied United FC have provided some relief to the red-and-gold camp. And a positive result versus a lowly-placed Mumbai FC, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Wednesday, will certainly put them in a better position.

Besides, with even the top five teams in the league standings not really being consistent this year, the dream of winning the I-League, as Armando Colaco believes, is yet to be over. “It’s mainly because of fitness and poor pre-season conditioning that we’ve had difficulties in winning back-to-back matches.

“But if you look at the league table now, any team could go on to win the competition. It’s still wide open.

Of course, players first need to do their job with distinction, but they do know that they can realise their dream (of lifting the trophy).

“Having said that, I don’t want to put pressure on my players by continuously talking about the league table. Concentrating on one match at a time is the way to go from here on,” Colaco explained.

With several key members of the squad unavailable due to injury and fitness issues, East Bengal may have to do with the same XI that featured against Rangdajied in the last match. This means Colaco will have to start with the awfully out-of-form Ryuji Sueoka — whose attitude is also under scanner for his gesture towards the coach on being taken off during the previous game — alongside Edeh Chidi.

“In some cases, you do need to compromise. My job as coach is to guide East Bengal to win matches, not to single out player/s for their attitude. And if you look at Sueoka’s gesture from a different perspective, it also reflects his involvement in the game.

“All said and done, I’ve no grudges against anyone. It’s for the club to decide whether anything needs to be done or not,” Colaco clarified.

Keeping the talismanic Yusif Yakubu at bay will be a major task for the East Bengal deep defence. It was the Ghanaian who played a pivotal role in leading Mumbai FC to victories in the first leg of the competition.

“Yakubu is valuable for us in every match. We always have the patience to wait for him to deliver,” Mumbai FC assistant coach Henry Piccardo emphasised.

“By no means can we afford to give Yakubu any extra bit of space,” reminded Colaco. The game is a crucial one for the visitors, too, as another loss would push them deeper into the relegation zone.

“One win, though, will certainly help us breathe easier. And if we get our act together tomorrow, we stand a fair chance of winning. We haven’t seen anything very special as such in this East Bengal team,” Piccardo added.