Siliguri, Feb 11: It will be a tussle of who blinks first when title contenders East Bengal and Mohun Bagan re-draw battle lines for a place at the top of the pyramid in an eighth round I-League football tie at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here on Sunday.
Celebrated as the Kolkata Derby, the colossal tie which is entering its 97th year will see after a long time both Kolkata giants fighting for the trophy with East Bengal sitting at the top with 19 points from seven matches and Mohun Bagan breathing down their neck on 16 having played one match less.
Both outfits are unbeaten in their campaigns so far and have shown enough depth in their arsel to sway the odds in their favour.
For East Bengal, who have not won the title for more than a decade now, this seems to be the best opportunity to lay their hands on the first crown since tiol Football League was rechristened as the I-League in 2007.
A winning streak of six matches holds them in good stead going to the marquee tie.
Bagan, on the other hand, will look to plug their gaps in defence which lay exposed against Colombo FC in the AFC Cup prelimiry stage tie.
The Sri Lankan champions lost 1-2 and 2-4 on aggregate but had their player Seka John Yapo weave past four defenders to net the best goal of the match.
“Their defence is a problem for them,” Colombo FC coach Roomy Hassan had said after the match, to which Bagan tactician Sanjoy Sen had agreed.
Bagan, in all likelihood, will pair Brazilian central defender Eduardo Ferreira with As Edathodika as Kingshuk Debth is still recovering from injury. This will be Eduardo’s first match since the goalless stalemate against DSK Shivajians last month.
This will also be a test for Bagan’s Haitian star Sony Norde to show his mettle in the biggest game of the Indian club football calendar.
Norde missed the last meeting between the two sides in April 2016 due to injury he picked up while playing for his tiol team.
Norde’s fellow countryman Wedson Anselme will also be licking his lips at the prospect of a new-look rival backline. Along with him, Trinidad and Tobago forward Willis Plaza will also aim to continue his good showing since joining East Bengal ranks this season.
All in all, this meeting, the first of the two games the sides are supposed to play, will give an idea as to who is ahead in the two-horse race this time. IANS