Sony Norde is likely to be rested for Saturday’s I-League tie against Aizawl FC as Mohun Bagan prepare to play three games in eight days that could decide their fate in India and Asia this term.
After Saturday, Mohun Bagan host Colombo FC in the AFC Cup qualifier on Tuesday before travelling to Siliguri for the derby against East Bengal on February 12.
“Such sequence of matches tests a team’s ability to rotate and balance its squad”, said Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen on Friday.
Both teams have 13 points but Mohun Bagan are second in the standings with a game in hand. It was a 14th round defeat against Aizawl FC that effectively derailed Mohun Bagan’s chances of back-to-back I-League titles in 2015-16. That 1-2 loss away on March 26, 2016, was Mohun Bagan’s first of the competition.
Having missed the AFC Cup qualifier away to Colombo FC with a hamstring injury, Norde injured his left knee at training on Thursday. Given that he could get game time on Tuesday, coach Sanjoy Sen could keep the Haiti international out of this table-toppers’ clash. Probir Das may take Norde’s place.
Last season, Norde had missed games against Aizawl FC in the I-League, being on national duty once and not having joined the club before the home game. He scored in the Federation Cup final between the teams which Mohun Bagan won 5-0.
The left-side midfielder isn’t the only player on Mohun Bagan’s injury list. Ruled out of this sixth round game is striker Balwant Singh, whose old left knee injury is said to be playing up, central defenders Raju Gaikwad and Equatorial Guinea’s Eduardo Ferreira, and wide midfielder Kean Lewis who scored in the 2-1 win against Colombo FC.
Like Norde, Jeje Lalpekhlua missed I-League contests against Aizawl FC in 2015-16 but scored a brace in the Federation Cup final. With three goals in four games, he is likely to shoulder front-third responsibilities with Scot Darryl Duffy who has four goals from five and is third on the goalscorers’ list.
Aizawl FC coach Khalid Jamil said they could miss influential Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Amnah due to injury. Since the somewhat lucky 1-1 draw against East Bengal here when Jamil said he didn’t know most of his players, Aizawl FC notched up a hattrick of wins; against Minerva FC, Shillong Lajong and Jamil’s old club Mumbai FC. They were surprised 0-2 by debutants Chennai City FC but bounced back with a 1-0 win against DSK Shivajians before this game.
“The boys deserve a lot of credit for adapting to a new coach in a short time,” said Jamil.