Principal Correspondent

KOLKATA: East Bengal seems to be bothered by injury problems and the suspension of a key striker ahead of the encounter that will ensure its survival in the AFC Cup football.

There were signs of diffidence in the ranks of the Federation Cup champion, which will meet Lebanon’s Safa SC in the penultimate round of the Group ‘B’ league at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. After four rounds, Safa leads the group with eight points while East Bengal is second with six points.

Despite getting all players back from the National camp, currently underway in Goa, East Bengal coach Aloke Mukherjee said at least three of his first eleven players are on the injury list.

More trouble

This includes heavyweights like midfielder Alvito D’Cunha, defender M. Suresh and forward Rahim Nabi. Adding to the injury woes is the suspension of its Brazilian striker Edmilson Marques, who collected a red card in the earlier home match which East Bengal lost 4-2 to Jordan’s Al Wihdat. Mukherjee said that adequate replacements were available.

The team would look to wrap up with a win in the last home match of the group league.

The host, with a win each at home (against Yemen’s Ahli Sana’a) and away (against Wihdat), will have to go all out on Wednesday match to stay in the hunt for a quarterfinal berth. It will play Yemen’s Ahli Sana’a in the final match on May 14.

Safa SC coach Sameer Saad picked his words carefully and preferred to put his team as the underdog against the home side.

With summer at its peak in the city, the Lebanese coach sounded uneasy about battling heat and humidity. The match will start at 3 p.m.

The visitor does not have fitness problems and has the best eleven at its disposal including its Cameroon striker Bernard Mbassi, who scored the winner against East Bengal in the previous encounter.

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