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Since 1st March, 1999
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Rival coaches wary of ground
Federation cup - Mohun Bagan take on JCT in quarter finals today

Calcutta: While East Bengal are hogging all the limelight, the time has come for Mohun Bagan to deliver. But on the eve of their crucial Tata Federation Cup quarter final match against JCT, the Mohun Bagan coach Aloke Mukherjee sounded more concerned with the quality of the Salt Lake Stadium turf than anything else.

“A fatal injury can just be round the corner on this ground,” coach Aloke Mukherjee said on Wednesday.

He found an ally in rival coach Sukhwinder Singh.

“The ground is such that you cannot predict a result. But Mohun Bagan will surely hold the key, as their players are accustomed to playing on this kind of turf,” the JCT coach said.

But this favourites tag seems to be a burden for Mukherjee, who already has a couple of handicaps to start with. While striker Ashim Biswas is out with a ligament injury, goalkeeper Imran Khan suffered a knock at practice on Tuesday. “Imran has been playing very well so far, so it’ll surely be a blow,” Mukherjee said.

The coach is yet to decide whether Arindam Ghosh or Prasanta Dora will be fielded for the game.

Mukherjee also added that there will be “one or two” changes in the half-line, though he didn’t name them. However, he dropped a hint that veteran Basudeb Mondal may start.

The coach sounded quite respectful of the opposition.

“They are a good team, with Jo Paul Ancheri and Stephen Abarowei being the most experienced,” he said. Mukherjee informed that he will have a double covering for the former India captain.

It was his Brazilian star Jose Ramirez Barreto who did it against SBT the other day. But the coach doesn’t feel his team is wholly Barreto-dependent.

However, Barreto features quite prominently in Sukhwinder’s agenda.

“Barreto is a great player. We will have to think of some plan to keep him in check,” Sukhwinder said.

Mukherjee, meanwhile, will persist with Akuneto Chukuwama, the Nigerian who made his debut for Bagan against SBT, as defensive medio.

He also hoped that luck will favour his side. “Somehow, luck hasn’t been running our way. The other day, the cross-bar came in the way at least three times,” Mukherjee lamented.

JCT will be dependent heavily on their three foreigners, Abarowei, Musa Aliu and Mansuru Mohammed to deliver.

Final on August 9

Reacting probably to the drudgery of players, the IFA has decided to give the Salt Lake Stadium pitch a ‘rest’. Saturday’s Mahindra United-Air India match has been shifted to Howrah Stadium. Sunday’s match at Salt Lake has been pushed back by a day, so that the ground can get some sort of a facelift in two days.

The final has also been rescheduled and it will be played on August 9 instead of August 8.

REVISED SCHEDULE: Aug. 2: Mahindra United vs Air India (Howrah Stadium). Aug. 4: East Bengal vs Vasco. Aug. 5: First semi-final. Aug. 6: Second semi-final. Aug. 9: Final.

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