Football

ISL | Bagan, East Bengal ready their arsenal ahead of derby

With Bagan migrating to next season’s ISL, announcing a merger with the former champion ATK, this probably will be the last Kolkata derby of the I-League.

The oldest club rivalry of the continent will see another chapter getting added to its long and interesting history when the city giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal face off for the 368th occasion in 99 years, at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

With Bagan migrating to next season’s ISL, announcing a merger with the former champion ATK, this probably will be the last Kolkata derby of the I-League.

There is another derby scheduled in the return phase of the league but that match is unlikely to be held in the city or at the Salt Lake Stadium as its host East Bengal is reportedly looking for a cheaper alternative outside the city.

On the count of performance this season, Bagan is enjoying the momentum currently having won four, drawn two and lost just one in its last seven outings. This makes Bagan the current league leader and it will be looking to forge ahead this advantage against its traditional rival.

Interestingly, Bagan’s only loss so far has been against Churchill Brothers on December 8. Ever since, the Green-and-Maroon brigade under its Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna has won four and drawn one in an unbeaten run extending for the last five matches.

For East Bengal, the path so far has been quite bumpy as the team progressed haltingly winning two, drawing two and losing as many to tally eight points from six matches.

East Bengal, also managed by a Spanish coach in Alejandro Menendez, started the season well and the team enjoyed a brief stay on top of the standings. Things started going wrong in the new year as the team suffered consecutive defeats and lost its preeminent status to drop down to its present fifth position.

After a fairly moderate performance in the local Calcutta Football League, where it lost the crown to unheralded Peerless SC, Bagan seemed to have stepped on the gas when it came to performing in the national format.

The team has struck a nice balance with its young domestic recruits like Nongdamba Naorem, Subho Ghosh and Sheikh Sahil combining well with its foreign recruits like Fran Gonzalez and the play-maker Joseba Beitia.

East Bengal is yet to find the right combination among its ranks and will hope that the likes of Jaime Colado and Juan Mera tilt the balance in favour of the Red-and-Golds with their creative abilities.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 5:45:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/bagan-east-bengal-ready-their-arsenal-ahead-of-derby/article30595091.ece

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