| Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya (ball in hand) with some of his players at the club ground Wednesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Mohun Bagan are desperate to bag three points from Thursday’s National Football League match against Tollygunge Agragami. The defending champions have come back well after the defeat against East Bengal with two away wins but they are without Bhaichung Bhutia who is out with injury.
Coach Subrata Bhattacharya said after match-eve practice that the damage caused by Bhutia’s absence is irreparable, but his team has no choice but to go for full points. Mohun Bagan have 13 points from seven matches.
Tollygunge, on the other hand, must turn things around in order to stay in the elite tier of the League, as four points are all they have collected from five games. Coach Aloke Mukherjee admitted his team is under pressure and counterattack will be the focus on Thursday.
“We have done better in away games. Maybe the players are feeling the pressure of expectations in home matches. But come what may, we must win this game,” said Subrata, adding that key foreigners Jose Ramirez Barreto and George Ekeh will form the attacking pair.
Either Ekeh or Barreto were instructed to share some burden in midfield with Bhutia around. On Thursday, Palash Karmakar will be used as defensive screen in that region. Even without Bhutia, Mohun Bagan’s attacking resources look sharp, though they are still to completely sort out the problems in spoiling and guarding fort.
Reliable defender and international Satish Bharti has been diagnosed with jaundice and Kajal Bhattacharya will take his place at the heart of the defence. Dulal Biswas, Lolendra Singh and Isa Musah are expected to take the other spots in the rear.
“Tollygunge tend to do well against us and they have a few good attackers in Akeem Abolanle, Ashim Biswas and Moses Owira, who can be dangerous on their day. We have to watch them,” said Subrata.
His Tollygunge counterpart accepted that Mohun Bagan are heavier in weight but said his players should take this game as the point of return. “We have to check the slide and there is no better time to do it than tomorrow,” said Aloke.
“We can’t afford to go all out but still, we must look for the chances to capitalise on the counterattacks. How well we do that holds the key,” the Tollygunge coach felt. His problem has been worsened by the unavailability of midfield workhorse Mehtab Hossain, who is out with two bookings. Aloke is yet to finalise on the replacement.