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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Durand Cup: Mohun Bagan Super Giant aim to tighten grip on Emami East Bengal

Juan Ferrando's men pumped up to extend Derby winning streak against arch-rivals

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 12.08.23, 08:56 AM
Mohun Bagan’s Dimitri Petratos (left) and Jason Cummings during a training session at the club ground on Friday.

Mohun Bagan’s Dimitri Petratos (left) and Jason Cummings during a training session at the club ground on Friday. Santosh Ghosh 

Mohun Bagan Super Giant will start as overwhelming favourites when they face arch-rivals Emami East Bengal in a Group A match of the Durand Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.

From January 2020, Mohun Bagan have not lost a single game against East Bengal stretching their winning Derby run to eight matches. The outcome has become so predictable that even East Bengal’s new coach Carles Cuadrat admitted his rivals will be ahead mentally.

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“They have not lost in the last eight matches. That obviously gives them a huge advantage mentally. They have a very strong team and are preparing for the AFC Cup. They are also the ISL champions,” Cuadrat said on Friday.

Juan Ferrando, his compatriot from Spain and Bagan counterpart, though is not giving any importance to the winning streak. “That’s a thing of the past. No point basking in that,” he said. “We have two important matches coming up. The Derby and the AFC Cup game. Our main focus is to do well in the AFC Cup,” he added.

Ferrando has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. Dimitri Petratos, Hugo Boumous, Jason Cummings, Armando Sadiku, Anwar Ali, Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa. Add to that some talented youngsters like Suhail Bhatt. On Saturday, Bhatt is unlikely to get a start. Petratos is likely to partner Armenian forward Armando Sadiku. “We have players who can last 60 minutes and there are so who joined late for the pre-season they can feature for 20 minutes. So we have to keep all options open,” the Spaniard added.

While Bagan have players who have the experience of having played the Calcutta Derby, East Bengal do not have many.

“We know it is a big game for all of us and as coach (Cuadrat) said, most of our players are new. We have been preparing well for this game and during the scheduling we knew we would play Bagan in our second game. The new players who have come in are experienced enough to handle the pressure,” East Bengal’s senior pro and one of the new signings, Mandar Rao Dessai, said. “Pressure is always there,” Cuadrat added.

Unlike the previous two seasons, East Bengal have built a decent team this time and fans are hoping for a better show.

The Durand Cup opener though did not go the way Cuadrat had planned as his players frittered away a two-goal advantage to allow Bangladesh Army to leave the pitch with one point. “We are working on our weaknesses,” the former Bengaluru FC coach said.

Bagan on the other hand have won both their matches and are in pole position to top the group and enter the last-eight stage. “Every match we play it’s important,” Ferrando said.

Ferrando said East Bengal cannot be taken lightly. “They have some very good players this season.”

The one way-traffic for the last three and half years has not been able to take the sheen away from the marquee match. So on Saturday, even though the odds are loaded heavily against East Bengal, expect their supporters to give Bagan fans a run for their money.

“We have a lot to give to them,” Cuadrat said.

Today's matches

NorthEast United vs FC Goa in Guwahati (2.30pm)

Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal in Calcutta (4.45pm)

Live on Sony Ten2, SonyLIV

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