Kolkata: Unbeaten East Bengal will look to seal the title and recreate history in the OC Blue CFL Premier Division A when they clash against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in the season’s first derby in Kolkata on Sunday.
With 22 points from eight matches, East Bengal require a draw — one point — to take their points tally beyond the reach of the I-League champions, who have 14 points from seven outings. If record 36-time winners East Bengal manage to do so, they will be crowned champions for the sixth successive time, a feat they had achieved in their 1970-75 run. Both the teams will be watchful on the relaid grass surface of the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan as it would be hosting its first match and there are chances that the surface may still be damp.
East Bengal’s South Korean signing Do Dong Hyun, who leads the scoring chart with 10 goals in eight games, has played a key role. While Dong is likely to start in the playing XI, their Nigerian ace marksman Ranty Martins may start from the bench. The Biswajit Bhattacharya-coached side have shown tremendous resilience to come back from behind like they did against Kalighat MS in their last outing to win 4-3 from being 0-2 down at the break.
“We’re still not champions and anything can happen, so the boys are alert and know the situation well,” Bhattacharya said, adding that derby was “not adding extra pressure”. They will aim to clinch the issue with just one match remaining, against Southern Samity on September 10.
On the other hand, the I-League champions who have lost one match — to Army XI — to see their fortunes sagging, will look to earn the bragging rights by halting East Bengal’s march, albeit momentarily. Mohun Bagan will bank on their forward duo of Dudu Omagbemi and Katsumi Yusa, while their latest recruit Kean Lewis, who was with Major League Soccer team Houston Dynamo’ U-23 side, has also been impressive.
The 22-year-old, who had arrived on trial during the pre-season before being signed, scored a brace in their big 4-1 win over Police AC in the last match. He will look to continue his fine run. Mohun Bagan have to win their remaining three matches which include games against Kalighat and Aryan on September 9 and 14, respectively to stay afloat in the probability race. Kickoff: 3.30pm