Having bounced back in the tournament from a disappointing start, Mohun Bagan would look to continue their winning momentum when they take on bottom-placed Oil and Natural Gas Corporation in a Round Five I-League match at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday.
Mohun Bagan began their campaign with back-to-back losses —— against Shillong Lajong and Prayag United —— which led to the sacking of coach Santosh Kashyap and appointment of Karim Bencherifa, who had earlier tasted success with the green-and-maroon brigade.
Bencherifa, who was Salgaocar coach at the time of his appointment as Bagan coach, will join his new club later this month but the Kolkata giants have done well under Mridul Banerjee in the interim period with consecutive wins against Air India and Sporting Clube-de-Goa.
Mohun Bagan, though, will not find it easy against ONGC as they will be missing the services of their Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey due to injury though Odafa Okolie seems to have struck form with a hat-trick in their last outing.
Banerjee is expected to continue with the same 4-1-4-1 formation with Odafa the lone striker upfront and much will also depend on the versatile and nippy Syed Rahim Nabi from the right flank.
Another Nigerian Stanley Okoroigwe was also in fine form in Bagan’s last match and he would also be a key player who can feed his compatriot Odafa. In the absence of injured Arindam Bhattacharya, Shilton Paul will man the goal.
Mohun Bagan have six points from four matches so far and coach Banerjee said his side would look to get full points from tomorrow’s match.
“We need to garner three full points at any cost. After a bad start, we have won two consecutive matches. A win here will further propel us ahead,” he said.
“We cannot let slip the momentum,” Banerjee added.
ONGC, on the other hand, have just one point from four matches, which they got from the 1-1 draw against Prayag United in their third round match at Ambedkar Stadium here on October 26.
The Subrata Bhattacharya-coached side would start as underdogs tomorrow but they would look to that Prayag match for inspiration.
Bhattacharya is happy that a couple of his key players would be available for tomorrow’s match.
“We need to gain the momentum. We need to add to our account at any cost. We have been unlucky but at the end of the day, it’s just an excuse. There’s no room for errors,” said Bhattacharya.
“I’m relieved to get back midfielder Eric Brown. Stopper Robin Gurung has also recovered and will start. Both of them played a pivotal role against Prayag United. They stay our key players,” he added.
“Bagan are a great team. Look at their history. Their name is enough to ring a bell.”