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Odds on Al Wihdat

sports Updated: Mar 16, 2009 23:51 IST
Somshuvra Laha

Priorities have already been preached but Mohun Bagan will have their task cut out against Al Wihdat in the AFC Cup Group D encounter on Tuesday. Coach Karim Bencherifa admitted that a season that saw them win the Kolkata League, the Federation Cup and vie strongly for the ongoing I-League has taken its toll on players and indications are that the team might go for quite a few changes in the starting XI.

Al Wihdat, considerably fresher, are on course for their third consecutive Jordan League — pumping in 39 goals in 15 matches while conceding only six — and will look to compensate for a disappointing 1-1 draw against Kuwait SC last week.

Al Wihdat leave from here for an away quarterfinal tie of the revered Arab Champions League against Wydad Casablanca on Saturday after having won the home tie 2-1 back on March 1.

Not that the AFC Cup isn't important but coach Akram Ahmad Selman emphasised there is time to catch up (the winner and runner-up of each group qualifies for the round of 16) in this meet.

“The quarterfinal is much more important at this point of time for us, and so we have decided to leave a few players (Jordan internationals included) back home,” Selman, the former Iraq coach, said.

Notable among them are midfielders Rafat Ali, Mohammad Jamal and Faisal Ibrahim. Amer Deeb, sole goalscorer in the Kuwait SC tie, though is here. He was also part of the same team that won 4-2 against East Bengal here last season.

Mohun Bagan are focussing on this game all right but can't really afford to have next Monday's tie against Chirag United out of their sights, given how precariously balanced the upper tier of the I-League now is.

“I rate Al Wihdat higher than Al Karamah on technical grounds. But I also feel that determination and tactical discipline can do it for us,” coach Karim Bencherifa added.

Marcos Perreira didn't train on Monday and it is possible that the Brazilian could be left out of this game. N.S. Manju too may be rested and like in Syria, Branco Cardozo could get a slice of the action.

Stating that the weather is a problem as it is a lot colder in Jordan, Selman said he would have preferred an evening kick-off.

“He also wasn't happy with the Howrah Municipal Stadium park, saying “there are better grounds in Jordan but we will play.”