Mumbai: It’s been a brilliant season for East Bengal, but the time has come to put the icing with the National Football League title. And the Calcutta giants hold the clear edge when they take on Mahindra United at the Cooperage Wednesday.
They have 43 points, nine more than the second-placed Vasco, and a win here will almost ensure the crown for them. East Bengal defence, however, will be hampered by the absence of Douglas de Silva and Arun Malhotra, both out with two yellow cards. However, the reserve bench, which has done wonders throughout the season, will have to deliver the goods once again.
The last line of defence seems to be a bit of a worry for the league leaders. Both Sandip Nandy and Sangram Mukherjee are nursing injuries, and V.P. Satish Kumar might have to do the duties.
The real strength of the red-and-gold brigade has been there forward-line with both Alvito D’Cunha and Mike Okoro in fine touch. But they will have their task cut out against the likes of Odartey Lawson, Anthony Pereira, Peter Siddique and Naushad Pari. Former Indian captain Debjit Ghosh knows the East Bengal team well and he too will have to play a major role as the defensive midfielder.
In the mid-field, the Mumbai side have the likes of James Singh, R. P. Singh, Khalid Siddique and Khalid Jamil while their forward-line consists of R. C. Prakash, Ednei Jose Damasio and Mongba Aby Samson.
Damasio is the real worry for East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick. He said: “We is the danger man and we will have to keep him in check.” The ground, too, is not in the best shape.
Meanwhile, in another match in Ludhiana, Mohun Bagan will play JCT. JCT have been in fine form and following a win against leaders East Bengal in their last game, the home team will go out. Mohun Bagan too will have to go flat out and anything short of a win will throw them out of reckoning for a runner-up berth.
Dempo trounced Indian Bank 5-1 at the Nehru Stadium in Margao Tuesday. While Clifford Miranda (15th), Bijen Singh (29th), Jose Coalco (50th, 90th) and Channa Bandanage Ediri (52nd), scored for Dempo, V.K. Harish pulled one back for Indian Bank in the 18th minute.