| East Bengal players gear up for Sunday’s NFL clash. Debjit Ghosh (top) will start in midfield for Mahindra. Pictures by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, Nov. 23: It’s still early days in a marathon league with the teams trying to settle their nerves and get things into shape. East Bengal got off to a winning start in the National Football League with a 2-0 win over local rivals Tollygunge Agragami while it has been a mixed bag for Mahindra United. Having started on a winning note (beating HAL 1-0 at home), the Mumbai outfit crashed to a 2-3 defeat in the hands of Tollygunge.
None has looked impressive so far, therefore, Sunday’s clash between East Bengal and Mahindra United at Salt Lake Stadium will see an extra effort on both their parts to get things right.
“It’s true we didn’t perform well in the first half (against Tollygunge), but got our act together thereafter. As the League progresses, we’ll come to shape,” East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick said on Saturday. “This is early stage of the league and nothing should be ascertained from one match,” he added.
It’s his midfield that has bothered Subhas most in the previous match, but the availability of Arun Malhotra in defence and Chandan Das in halfline is certain to provide a sense of assurance.
As the coach disclosed on the match-eve, Arun will replace Suley Musah while Chandan’s mobility will provide a better option in the middle third.
For a change, Alvito D’Cunha is set to pair with Mike Okoro upfront while Anit Ghosh will as usual act as a link between defence and midfield. “Every team wants to win at home and we are confident to come through tomorrow,” Subhas said.
Mahindra’s chief coach, former Czech World Cupper Carel Stromcek also looks set to reshuffle his armoury. He had described the match against Tollygunge as “extremely disappointing” and even attributed the loss to “some silly mistakes of his players”.
Stromcek knows East Bengal are not an “average” opponent like Tollygunge and they’ll have their task cut out. “East Bengal are definitely better-organised and one of the strong contenders for the league. So, it’s not going to be easy for us,” Stromcek admitted.
For a change, the Czech coach has looked to the “local factors” in papering over the cracks. India defender Debjit Ghosh will start as a central midfielder while former Mohun Bagan players like James Singh and R.P. Singh may not be as adventurous as they were against Tollygunge. Ivory Coast’s Mongba Aby Samson, who replaced Abhisek Yadav in that match, will be in the starting line-up.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Arun Malhotra, Dipak Mondal, Douglas de Silva; Chandan Das, S. Malswamtluanga, Anit Ghosh, S. Venkatesh, Shasthi Duley; Mike Okoro, Alvito D’Cunha.
Mahindra United: Nassem Akhtar; Sur Kumar Singh, Odartey Lawson, Anthony Pereira, Syed Hussain; James Singh, Debjit Ghosh, R.P. Singh, Peter Strandel, R.C. Prakash, Mongba Aby Samson; Abhisek Yadav.