That Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC, India’s two representatives in the 2017 AFC Cup, are looking at Asia through different lenses was evident when the Kolkata giants said they would rest some players against Abahani Limited Dhaka.
That’s what Bengaluru FC did against Mohun Bagan at the weekend in the I-League because they are focusing on the AFC Cup. Bengaluru FC play away to Maldives’ Maziya on Tuesday when Mohun Bagan host the Dhaka club at Rabindra Sarovar stadium.
Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen said right-back Pritam Kotal would be rested and that central defender Anas Edathodika may start on the bench. Both played full matches for India and against Bengaluru FC last week and Sen needs them to be on the top of their game in Sunday’s I-League match against East Bengal in Siliguri.
Like Abahani, Mohun Bagan lost their opener in the AFC Cup, away to Bengaluru. But what makes Sen’s statement of wanting three points from Tuesday’s game --- Mohun Bagan’s 19th this season -- more than just talk is that the visitors are thin on match practice, have had a players’ exodus and a new coach.
“Our season starts in July and that is a problem. I have requested the authorities (in Bangladesh) to arrange their calendar in accordance with AFC otherwise we will be with a handicap…We are still trying to find the best way to play,” said Abahani’s Croatian coach Drago Mamic who joined “two months ago.”
Abahani also lost five players to Saif Sporting Club this term. They have two imports, Emeka Darlington of Nigeria and Welsh Jonathan Brown, available for this Group E game. Ghanaian defender Samad Youssif hasn’t travelled, said Mamic. The AFC Cup permits four foreigners, including one from Asia.
Mamic is no stranger to Mohun Bagan having beaten them in the 2011 IFA Shield final when he was with Churchill Brothers. But as he said, in another context, “in football, you don’t live in the past.”
Duffy may be rested
Sen said three of Mohun Bagan’s four foreigners will play. It is likely that Darryl Duffy, who has seven goals in the I-League, won’t be among them. Sen is likely to start wide left midfielder Sony Norde, central defender Eduardo Ferreira and the industrious wide-right Katsumi Yusa.
If Duffy doesn’t start, Mohun Bagan’s attack will be fronted by Jeje Lalpekhlua and possibly Azharuddin Mallick who did a good job against Bengaluru FC.
Azhar’s performance on Saturday showed the kind of strength in depth we have, said Sen. “We know nothing about them and hence would be cautious for the first 15-20 minutes,” said Sen before iterating that full points are what he is looking for to open Mohun Bagan’s account in the AFC Cup.