SC East Bengal would look to extend their six-match unbeaten run with a win when they take on Chennaiyin FC in an ISL VII at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Monday.
The last encounter between the two sides ended 2-2 at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Boxing Day (December 26) last year. Matti Steinmann netted a brace in that match to cancel out Chennaiyin’s lead twice.
SC East Bengal managed to earn a point, courtesy Scott Neville’s last-gasp equaliser, in their 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters FC at the Tilak Maidan last Friday. They currently stand ninth on the league table with 11 points from as many games.
SC East Bengal coach Robbie Fowler said: “We are on a six-match unbeaten run and there are a lot of points to play for. It’s not mathematically impossible to qualify for the playoffs because if you look at the points table, you’ll see that only five points separate us and the fourth-placed team (Hyderabad FC) at the moment.”
One of the biggest positives of late has been Neville’s steady improvement, which has been a key factor in their resurgence. The Australian defender was arguably his team’s best performer in the last game.
SC East Bengal will be playing their fourth game in 12 days. Fowler feels that it’s not an ideal situation to be in, but his team will take it because of the ‘momentum' factor’.
“As regards the fixture congestion, I think we’ve been unfortunate. We’ve played a lot more games in succession as compared to other teams. Having said that, we are a momentum team. We will try to embrace the situation and play to win points in every match, as we always do.”
Defender Raju Gaikwad suffered a last-minute injury prior to the Blasters game, which made way for Rana Gharami in the starting XI. On being asked about Gaikwad’s injury status, Fowler said: “I am not here to tell who is playing and who’s not because I don’t want to make the opposition manager’s job easy. He (Raju) was unfortunate to miss the last game due to an injury at the very last minute. We’ve got a squad of players and we’ll try to use them.”
ATK Mohun Bagan lose points
A late equaliser by youngster Ishan Pandita helped FC Goa play out a 1-1 draw against ATK Mohun Bagan in an ISL match in Margao on Sunday.
Substitute Pandita’s goal came in the 85th minute, after a 75th-minute free-kick from Edu Garcia had put ATK Bagan ahead. Garcia powered one into the right-hand corner of the net.