Pune FC begins campaign against newcomer Eagles FC

The last one year was a very tough one for Mohun Bagan. A ban from the I-League, which was revoked later, a hefty fine and then the tough climb from the bottom of the country’s premier league.

Mohun Bagan, which has won the Federation Cup a record 13 times, must be looking for redemption when the 35th edition of the championship begins at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here and at Manjeri on Tuesday.

Mood upbeat

A victory over East Bengal in the Calcutta League on Saturday has raised the mood in the team which is currently sixth in the Airtel I-League. Still, it’s not all rosy in the Bagan camp.

Odafa Okolie (the team’s ace striker) is injured and has been asked to go for a scan by the team’s Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa. “Very doubtful but we will see. Also Denson Devadas and Kingshuk Debnath have been held up in Kolkata.”

Two of the Cup’s four groups will play their matches at Kochi. Bagan is clubbed with Mumbai FC, Salgaocar FC and Shillong Lajong in Group C which will be played here. Like Bagan, Churchill Brothers will be looking at the Fed Cup to haul it out of its many problems in the I-League, where it is currently placed at the bottom.

“I don’t want to talk about the past, I want to talk about the present and the future,” said Churchill coach Mariano Dias. “When you are in difficulty, you put up a better show.”

While other teams have four, Churchill Brothers has just two foreigners here. The constant churning and changing, with foreigners coming and going, have done a lot of damage.

Churchill is clubbed with a strong Pune FC, United FC (Bengal), which has many injury worries, and the new home team Eagles FC in Group A.

While Pune looks the strongest in its group, coach Mike Snoei would not take any team lightly, not even Eagles — its rival in the opener.

“It’s the most dangerous game of the tournament,” said the Dutchman. “We have to be hundred per cent alert.”

While Pune will use the Fed Cup as preparation for its Asian Champions League playoff against a Vietnamese team which comes soon after the Kochi event, Eagles will be keen to pick up valuable lessons here for its Second Division I-League matches next month.

“Every team is here after having played some 15 I-League matches, we don’t have that sort of experience,” said Eagles coach Stanley Rozario, who has worked with some of the country’s top clubs, including Bagan.

Tuesday’s matches: Group A: Churchill Brothers, Goa v United SC, Kolkata (4 p.m.); Pune FC v Eagles FC Kerala, Kochi (7 p.m.).

Wednesday’s matches: Group C: Salgaocar FC, Goa v Shillong Lajong FC (4 p.m.); McDowell’s Mohun Bagan v Mumbai FC (7 p.m.).

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