Mohun Bagan and East Bengal play a Kolkata derby here on Sunday evening, the result of which could determine whether the 10th I-League trophy comes to Kolkata.
“It’s a very important derby for Mohun Bagan and the result will be significant in terms of winning the league,” said Mohun Bagan skipper Katsumi Yusa.
East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan said their chances would be effectively over should they lose on Sunday. A win, however, could take them four points clear of Mohun Bagan.
While preparing for this match, the teams will also keep an eye on what happens in Bengaluru where the reigning champions Bengaluru FC host current leaders Aizawl FC.
Mohun Bagan have 26 points from 13 games and are third while second-placed East Bengal have 27 from 14. The leaders in this nine-team competition have 30 from 14.
Mohun Bagan began a busy April with successive home wins, against a depleted Bengaluru FC and Abahani Dhaka in the AFC Cup, but to stay relevant in India they will look to glean full points in what is their home game.
With the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata unavailable because of the under-17 World Cup, Siliguri is hosting both legs of the Kolkata derby. The first one, on February 12, ended in a tame goalless draw.
More attacking intent likely
It is possible the teams would be more adventurous at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here.
“There’s no difference between a Kolkata Derby and another Hero I-League match. But it’s always difficult to pick up points in these matches. …We’ll be four points clear of Mohun Bagan. On the other hand, the championship might slip from our hands if we leave the ground as second best,” said Morgan.
The straight-talking coach also accepted that Mohun Bagan’s current form have been good while that of his team not quite. “Their current form speaks volume. To put it straight, I was very disappointed with some players’ form in our last fixtures. We have to toil hard for success…,” said Morgan.
Away form worries Sen
“A derby is not only a physical game which is played on the pitch but also a psychological one. A win is always welcome for us but if we don’t steal all three points tomorrow, it won’t be the end of the world,” said Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen.
Sen admitted to being worried by Mohun Bagan’s ‘away’ form even though this is technically a home game. “Yes, we feel at ease at home. We must improve our away form. Still, we are left with three away fixtures and all of them are equally important to win the league...,” he said.
Mohun Bagan have won only once on the road, against newbies Chennai City FC and that came on January 21, in five I-League games. Their only loss, against Churchill Brothers, too came in Goa. They dropped points against Bengaluru FC and DSK Shivajians.