|East Bengal (picture top) players take a break during their match-eve practice session at the club ground on Friday while Mohammedan Sporting players do stretching exercises. The two clubs will clash for the first time this season on Saturday. Pictures by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: It’s being dubbed as a battle between P.K. Banerjee and his protégé Subhas Bhowmick. East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting’s Super Division clash at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday has assumed greater significance with the presence of these two stalwarts on either side.
While Bhowmick has managed to bring in a new sense of professionalism and attitude in the East Bengal ranks, PK’s availability has brought about a change of fortunes in the black-and-white brigade.
Bhowmick, though, tried to downplay this aspect after practice on Friday. “There is no place for a teacher-disciple principle in a professional set-up. But it would be nice to win against a person from whom I have learnt a lot.”
East Bengal are not taking things for granted. “There’s no room for complacency. Mohammedan Sporting are the No. 2 side in the country at the moment,” he cautioned.
Bhowmick is not reading much into Bhutia’s absence. The star strike left for Malaysia late Friday night for his stint with Perak FC. “Bhaichung was not in the city for quite a few days. Anyway I wouldn’t have played him,” he said.
“I don’t have stars. No one is indispensable in this set-up. Everyone knows to take responsibility in this set-up,” he said.
East Bengal are likely to play Douglas Da Silva along with Mike Okoro. This means Suley Musah will have to sit out to keep the two-foreigner rule in place.
Bhowmick was non-committal. He, though, had not fielded Douglas in their previous game to save the Brazilian from a second yellow card which would have ruled him out of Saturday’s game.
Meanwhile, Mohammedan Sporting’s stupendous showing in the Federation Cup has boosted their confidence a few notches and it is showing. “East Bengal may be in good form but there is nothing to feel scared of. Their defence may be the best in the country but I aim to score against them,” said captain Dipendu Biswas.
Mohammedan Sporting will miss the services of Rahim Nabi who is in Jamshedpur as part of the India under-18 national camp.
Technical adviser PK’s presence has come as a boon with his famous vocal tonic able to motivate the players. Though Banerjee had said a few days earlier that it would come as a surprise if East Bengal did not annex all trophies this season, he sounded a little guarded on Friday.
“East Bengal are certainly not unbeatable. If the players can give off their best, we can spring a surprise,” he said.