On the day, Bhaichung Bhutia resumed training, his coach fell sick. Coincidental that but also told you of the malaise presently affecting Mohun Bagan. “Everybody is falling sick and remember, I too am human,” Karim Bencherifa wryly said of the first session he missed since joining Mohun Bagan in June.
Bhutia stretched and jogged at the Howrah Stadium on Tuesday, for the first time since being injured during training on September 29. He is doubtful for Sunday’s game against Mohammedan Sporting but confident the team will turn things around.
With Ashim Biswas taking a knock on Tuesday, Edmilson Marques recovering from hepatitis B, Renedy Singh nursing a calf muscle sprain and Sunil Chhetri troubled by a swollen ankle, East Bengal too aren't in the pink of health. A situation that could get Yusif Yakubu into the role which fetched him golden boot twice in the National League. Come Saturday against Vasco and the 30-year-old Ghanaian may resume responsibilities as a targetman.
Playing behind strikers requires a lot of running and, like in the defeat against Mumbai FC, Yakubu didn't always seem comfortable doing that. That and the unavailability of strikers could get coach Stanley Rozario to pairYakubu with Parveen Kumar.
Dharamjit Singh and Mehtab Hossain's return to from injury bolsters Rozario's midfield options especially after Renedy suffered a calf muscle strain. Two losses in three rounds have left the three-time National League champions desperately seeking full points against the promotees but because East Bengal play Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting, Mahindra United and Sporting Clube de Goa next, Renedy may be benched on Saturday.
Renedy didn't train on Tuesday but Surkumar Singh did, for the first time since surgery and illness which kept him out of the Mumbai FC and Air India games. Having recovered from a hamstring injury just before the League, Renedy isn't the only India player battling injury but the 29-year-old midfield said it was one of those things.
“It is just coincidental and a lot is being made out of that. We haven't played enough so there's no question of being tired. Footballers worldwide get injured, it's just that those in Europe recover faster,” Renedy said.
He was reacting to the fact that from the XI that won the AFC Challenge Cup, four (Chhetri, Bhaichung Bhutia, Surkumar and Renedy) have been irregular in the League so far. And Deepak Mondal, who played only one match in that competition, is struggling with a back problem.
Renedy also said he had spoken to Bob Houghton (who is here to talk with coaches of Kolkata clubs) and the national coach reminded him that it's early days in the League and that all the players should do is work hard and follow their coaches. And like his friend and foe Bhutia, Renedy too thinks that the only direction teams currently at the bottom can move is north.