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East Bengal aiming to stay in title hunt

Edeh Chidi

Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal’s biggest bane in the I-League has been their inconsistent form.

Making a mess when it comes to winning back-to-back matches in the I-League has been East Bengal’s tendency. Such has been their inconsistent performance that one often wondered whether they would remain in the title hunt with these setbacks.

Still, they kept on making comebacks and kept their prospects alive. Now, it has come to such a stage that they need to win all of their remaining matches and hope that the results of other matches also go in their favour.

In that endeavour, their first hurdle is Mohammedan Sporting. On Saturday, the red-and-gold brigade must win against Sanjoy Sen’s men, at the Salt Lake Stadium.

As for the results of the other matches, Armando Colaco’s men would be rooting Mohun Bagan when they face Bengaluru FC on Sunday. A win for the Bangalore-based club will more or less confirm their triumph.

For Mohammedan Sporting, anything barring a win will push them deeper into the relegation zone. On paper, East Bengal are a superior unit, but Mohammedan Sporting too have in their ranks players who can cause an upset. Moreover, the situation demands they do so.

Fitness and injuries have been the main reasons that curbed East Bengal this season. Looking at the positive side of things, they have stayed in the hunt despite all constraints.

The occasion beckons Colaco to motivate his men and bring the best out of them.

“If we want to survive and stay in the hunt for the title, we have to win tomorrow’s game. Else…,” Colaco said, adding: “Fitness problems have had an effect over the confidence of the side, also affecting the consistency.

“That said, boys are eager to put their best foot forward. I believe they will repeat their good show against Mohammedan Sporting as well because it won’t be an easy game. Our opponents too will be battling to avoid relegation.”

To secure full points, Ryuji Sueoka and Edeh Chidi will have to carry out their roles up front, while the likes of Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Lalrindika Ralte and Cavin Lobo need to ensure they don’t give Penn Orji too much of room to operate.

A task also awaits young Abhishek Das, who is likely to replace the injured Naoba Singh.

Now, should Mohammedan Sporting strive for a positive result, Penn, along with Joshimar, needs to make the most of the available opportunity. And if Syed Rahim Nabi too rises to the occasion, East Bengal certainly will have to watch out then.

Mohammedan Sporting coach Sanjay Sen, though, believes staving off a defeat would be his team’s priority in this game. “Our aim is to avoid a defeat at all costs. If needed, we'll defend with as many as 10 players,” he said on match eve.

His team’s inconsistent and indisciplined show is the reason why Sen, who normally urges his men to play positive football, has to make such comments. In their previous game against United SC, Mohammedan Sporting had an excellent chance to secure full points and go up, pushing Churchill Brothers at rock bottom.

Like East Bengal, execution has been a major problem for Mohammedan Sporting too, with Joshimar fluffing even the easiest of opportunities.