One of the oldest derbies in the history of world football and the biggest in the history of Indian football, East Bengal against Mohun Bagan will ensure action, drama and intriguing stories when the two Kolkata juggernauts meet for the first time in the season at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri on February 12.
There will be absolutely no love lost between the two sides when they contest in the 315th derby. While East Bengal have been victorious in 120 matches, Mohun Bagan have won on 107 occasions.
The Kolkata derby being a top of the table clash, with a lot of pride at stake; both the teams will look to gain a psychological upperhand, and hence expect them to go all guns blazing.
As far as form is concerned, Trevor Morgan’s East Bengal are the team carrying the better form into this match, with a six-match winning streak since a 1-1 draw in the opening fixture of the season against Aizawl FC.
After a 3-2 home win over Aizawl FC, Sanjoy Sen’s Bagan will be further boosted with a 2-1 victory over Sri Lankan club Colombo FC in the AFC Cup.
Coming to the team selection, both the managers will look to field the strongest XI by keeping in mind the experience factor. This heated derby needs experienced and calm-headed players, who are able to soak up the pressure and perform. So expect Morgan and Sen to make some tough calls.
For the Red and Gold Brigade, Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Deon Plaza has been in hot form since moving from San Juan Jabloteh, netting five goals in seven appearances so far. But just during the crucial fixture, he is considered as doubtful, having sustained a minor calf-injury during Sunday's match against Chennai City FC.
Plaza’s strike partner Wedson Anselme will also be one of the crucial players, and could lead the attack if the Trinidadian fails to attain fitness. New Aussie recruit Chris Payne has been finally cleared to play in the I-League, after his visa issues were cleared.
After sitting out due to suspension rule against Chennai City FC which East Bengal comfortably won 3-0, defensive midfielder Mehtab Hossain is fit and raring to go, which comes as a big boost for Morgan.
Meanwhile, as far as the Mariners are concerned, injuries to Kingshuk Debnath and Raju Gaikwad have not made life easier for the team. Further Eduardo Ferreira’s unavailability could be the last thing for Sen. However, he expects his team officials to clear the Equatoguinean defender’s visa issues.
Haitian forward Sony Norde had a fine outing against Colombo FC, scoring and assisting one, and needs to step up in the derby. His movement and pace can cause problems in the opposition’s defence, and hence, he continues to stay a vital cog in Sen’s attack.
Seven goals in 8 games makes Daryl Duffy a man to watch. The former Swansea striker is in fantastic form and the team expects him to deliver the goods on Sunday.
The last time these two teams met was in the I-League last season, where East Bengal ran out 2-1 victors. It is tough to predict a favourite for the mouthwatering clash, given it is a derby where form seldom matters, and also both teams enjoying fine form since the start of the season.
Expect a typical heated Kolkata derby, with both teams looking to make life difficult for the forwards on the other side on Sunday.
Tune into www.tensports.com for live streaming the match between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan on February 12.