| Time to fire: Jose Ramirez Barreto and Bhaichung Bhutia, whom Mohun Bagan are expecting to deliver in their must-win AFC Champions League second-round second-leg away tie against Valencia of Maldives, share a light moment at the club tent
Calcutta: National Football League champions Mohun Bagan have their task cut out as they embark on their journey to the Maldives on Saturday to take on Valencia in the second round qualifier of the AFC Champions League.
With a 2-2 draw in their home match, where the Valencia team came back from two goals down, the boys from Maldives will be undoubtedly be on a vantage position, at least psychologically.
Even Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya made no bones about the fact that their opposition will be on a high. “They rallied to hold us from the jaws of defeat in their away match. Now we’ll have to play them in their own den. Things will not be so easy,” he said.
Another worry for the green-and-maroon brigade is the long injury-list they are carrying. Star medio Rennedy Singh suffered a hamstring-pull during his stint with the Indian team. Though he has been included in the Bagan squad, it’s unlikely that he will play.
Mohun Bagan, however, signed Somatai Shaiza from Churchill Brothers Friday as a cover for Rennedy. But Soso, as he is better known, has been out of the game for quite some time now. And what he had on offer, which was displayed a couple of days back during Bagan’s practice match against Bengal, was not very encouraging.
Even Subrata didn’t make any comment about his new recruit. “Let’s see, there is still a couple of days left, may be he’ll be in shape.”
Meanwhile, if the injury to Rennedy is not enough, Bhaichung Bhutia and George Ekeh are carrying niggles as well. Though the coach wanted to downplay Bhaichung’s injury as ‘nominal’, his worry couldn’t be concealed. “I don’t know how much we can do with so many injuries.”
He informed that the team will play in the tried and tested 4-4-2 format. “It’s a pressure match, we’ll have to win, so there’s no point of experimenting,” he said.
However, above all this, Subrata is hoping his sensational trump-card will now click.
The upfront combination of Bhaichung and Jose Ramirez Barreto is unquestionably the best in domestic level of the game in recent times.
This certainly provides a cutting edge to the Bagan strike-force. And the coach is trying to capitalise it against the Maldivian rivals.
While Bhaichung has been in stupendous form in international arena, Barreto is yet to strike his last season’s form for Mohun Bagan. Subrata, however, refused to read too much into the Brazilian’s lack of form.
“I’m not concerned about Barreto not getting goals, he is a class act and knows when to fire,” Subrata said.
However, records offer up a different scenario.
No Indian team has ever defeated a Maldives team in the islands. East Bengal, JCT and even Mohun Bagan all faced defeats there, though each of them had a success at home over the islanders.
Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, Bibhash Ghosh; Lolendra Singh, Dulal Biswas, Santosh Singh, Kajol Bhattacharya, Yakubu; Basudeb Mondal, Rennedy Singh, Sunil Chettri, Jayanta Sen, George Ekeh, Somthai Shaiza, Rennedy Singh, Sheikh Sanjeeb; Jose Ramirez Barreto, Bhaichung Bhutia, Amar Ganguly