| RENNEDY: Set to man left-half
Calcutta: With their AFC Champions League fate hanging in the balance, Mohun Bagan will go for the kill against Valencia in their crucial away match on Tuesday.
That in mind, the National League champions have decided to leave nothing to chances and put their two injured stars Rennedy Singh and George Ekeh in the starting line-up.
“Though Ekeh is not 100 per cent, he’ll play, even if he can continue for only one half,” a senior Bagan official said. Ekeh is understood to accompany Bhaichung Bhutia upfront, with Brazilian Jose Ramirez Barreto operating from a withdrawal position. “If, however, Ekeh, cannot play, Sunil Chettri will start,” the official added.
Rennedy, on the other hand, will be in his customary left-half position.
It is, however, quite difficult to understand how Rennedy will be able to shoulder the load. Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya had conceded earlier that the medio needs some more time to recover fully from his hamstring injury. In fact, Somatai Shaiza was signed as a cover for the him.
Meanwhile, star striker Bhaichung Bhutia feels that their main aim should be not to concede a goal. “If we let a goal in, it’ll be very difficult to come back,” Bhaichung told The Telegraph.
But he didn’t concede that the defence is a problem area. “I’m confident that they’ll be able to hold fort,” he said.
The teams are currently locked 2-2 with Valencia snatching a draw after being down by two goals in Calcutta in the October 9-second round qualifier.
Bhaichung, however, felt that the Maldivian champions will be on a psychological high. “They came back so well in Calcutta, it’s their home match now, so we have our task cut out,” Bhutia said.
But he feels that there is no reason why Bagan shouldn’t be able to pull it off. “If we play to our potential, it shouldn’t be difficult.”
The heat has been a bit of a worrying factor for the green-maroon brigade.
“It’s extremely hot and humid out here. Moreover, the match has been scheduled at 3:40 pm. So, we’ll have to cope with that,” the striker added.
Talking about his own performance and the combination with Barreto, Bhaichung said, “We are gelling quite well. Even in the practice today, we did well. So, there’s no reason why we can’t put up same kind of performance in the match.”
The state striker, however, sounded extremely satisfied with the practice facilities. “We practised today in the main stadium and the field looked quite superb,” he added.
Historically, Mohun Bagan, however, aim to make history. No Indian team has ever won a match in the Maldives.
Rajat Ghosh Dastidar; Dulal Biswas, Satish Bharti, Yakubu, Lolendra Singh; Jayanta Sen, Basudeb Mondal, Rennedy Singh, Jose Ramirez Barreto, Bhaichung Bhutia, George Ekeh (Sunil Chettri).