CHENNAI: All roads in the I-League will lead to the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri, some 550 kilometres from Kolkata, as giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan lock horns in the 316th Kolkata derby in an eighth round contest on Sunday.
It has been some time since clubs from Kolkata have occupied the top two positions in the league. East Bengal currently lead the standings with 19 points from 7 outings with Bagan on 16 having played a game less. It may be too early to judge but this year might be the best chance for the Kolkata clubs to break Bengaluru FC’s dominance and ensure a top two finish.
“The derby is a special occasion for everyone involved — from the players to the millions watching at home. The pressure is not for the faint-hearted. The match has gained added significance because of the way BFC have been playing as both clubs now have the chance to cement the top two spots,” former India midfielder Gautam Sarkar said.
Mohun Bagan will hope that star Sony Norde finally comes good in this fixture while Trevor Morgan will expect similar things from striker Willis Deon Plaza (Trinidad and Tobago). “Both sets of foreigners will be the deciding factor. Norde needs to come good while the combination of Plaza and Haitian playmaker Wedson Anselme will be hoping to create magic,” former East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya said.
While Bagan have been patchy, the Red and Golds have overcome a slow start and have gone from strength to strength since their come-from-behind victory against defending champs Bengaluru.
The match will be a test for the shaky Bagan defence. Even though they have conceded only thrice in the league, the lack of a regular back four is a concern for coach Sanjay Sen. Anas Edathodika and Eduardo Ferreira will join hands for the second time this season while East Bengal have played the same back four in the club’s previous four matches, leading to three clean sheets.
Even Sen admitted to the same. “East Bengal have been playing better football even if they’re better only by one per cent. Our defence is a major worry but I’m sure they will raise their game for the big occasion.”