The disenchantment stemming from lack of a proper home base rides high among the Mumbai teams this I-League. Literally on the road ever since the fourth edition kicked off, the teams, however, prefer Kolkata as an away venue. "It takes us just two hours to come here from Mumbai but if we have to play our home matches in Kolhapur, it takes more than eight hours by bus," said Air India coach Yusuf Ansari.
Air India were denied practice at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Tuesday, a day ahead of their clash. Instead, the team practiced at the Mohammedan Sporting ground.
After Mahindra United's pullout last season, Mumbai's chances of winning the I-League title for the first time after 2006 have become bleak. And Ansari certainly believes it's beyond their reach given the constraints they face as a government corporate team.
"Every year we have to work within a fixed budget. While teams like Mahindra United could increase their budget whenever they would have wanted to, we don't have a choice," said Ansari, who took over from Bimal Ghosh in the middle of last season and barely managed to avoid the chop, finishing 12th among 14 teams in I-League 3. Trevor James Morgan, though, is a man who knows his history. Last season, East Bengal lost both their away and home matches to Air India.
"Given the facts, we can be anything but careless," said the East Bengal coach, insisting that the two wins against Air India in the Federation Cup and Durand Cup will have no bearing on Wednesday's match. But Ansari felt East Bengal had a clear edge.
"It's about their temperament," Ansari said. "They are a very confident outfit and winning for so long has made them even better. I think East Bengal can win this I-League, especially after the way they defeated Dempo in Goa.