Calcutta: On paper and current form, Mohun Bagan seem to be ahead of Bengaluru FC (BFC) going into Sunday's Federation Cup final at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack.
Bengaluru won't be able to field a full-strength side in the summit clash, as Sunil Chetri is out with a hamstring injury. But Chetri has a message for Bagan - count Bengaluru out, but at your own peril.
"My absence doesn't give Bagan any edge at all. If Bagan think my absence gives them an edge, they will be making a big mistake. Bengaluru FC are not just about me. We've got players who are efficient enough to make up for my absence," Chetri told The Telegraph from Bangalore on Thursday.
The India striker believes an intense final lies ahead as defending champions Bagan and Bengaluru both have enough depth in their squads. "Both teams are balanced. There's depth in the two squads.
"So, obviously, it will be a tough battle," Chetri made it clear.
Chetri, however, doesn't want to compare the coaching styles of Albert Roca and Bengaluru's previous coach Ashley Westwood. Elaborating on their styles, Chetri said: "Look, you can't compare their coaching styles. Both have different ideologies. But at the end of the day, both of them are good coaches and they mean business."
Chetri, at present, is undergoing a four-week rehab after sustaining the injury during Bengaluru's last group-phase tie of the current Federation Cup, against Bagan, last week.
"It's a hamstring Grade II tear that I sustained ... My rehab seems to be going on well. I'm trying to be back in action as early as I can," he said.
Precisely, there appears to be major uncertainty over Chetri's return. According to sources, the earliest he could be back is the June 13 Asian Cup qualification game when India host Kyrgyzstan at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.
"Coach Stephen Constantine believes in fielding players only when they are 100 per cent fit. Last year (on March 24) at the World Cup qualification-stage tie against Iran, Sunil was close to being 100 per cent. But he still wasn't included in the side.
"So, in order to be back soon, Sunil has to be fully fit. At the moment, it appears that the earliest he could return is on June 13 against Kyrgyzstan," an India team source said.
For his part, Chetri doesn't point fingers at anyone, but he's certainly annoyed with the crammed schedule. "I don't want to blame anyone, but it drains you out when you play four matches in seven days. I only wish that others don't get injured like me."