Durand Cup semifinals: East Bengal, Mohun Bagan one game away from derby final

East Bengal will face Gokulam Kerala FC, while Mohun Bagan will take on Real Kashmir in the Durand Cup 2019 semifinal on Wednesday.

East Bengal has won its last two fixtures against arch-rival Mohun Bagan.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Local favourite East Bengal will take on the impressive Gokulam Kerala FC in the first semifinal of the 129th Durand Cup, here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. The decisive stage of the tournament has four I-League clubs, which progressed as the group champions while sailing through the challenges posed by the developmental sides of Indian Super League (ISL) clubs and services teams in their respective groups.

The semifinals will thus bear a real test of strength as the second match, to be played later in the evening, will see Mohun Bagan take on Real Kashmir FC in a clash that promises to be just as interesting as the first one.

Preferring to field a major chunk of their first-choice teams, the I-League clubs are treating the tournament as a pre-season fixture. Interestingly, all four semifinalists have remained unbeaten in the league stages.

The two city giants – East Bengal and Mohun Bagan – have both won the title 16 times each and will be eager to increase the tally. On the other hand, the relative newcomers in Gokulam Kerala FC and Real Kashmir will be driven by their desire to get their hands on the crown for the first time.

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The first semifinal will be pitting two sides with in-form foreigners. East Bengal has the likes of Spain’s Jaime Colado and Borja Gomez in attack and defence respectively, while Frenchman Kassim Aidara will anchor the midfield. For Gokulam Kerala FC, striker Marcus Joseph of Trinidad and Tobago is enjoying a great time having already scored two hat-tricks in three matches. His compatriot Andre Ettienne and Brazilian Bruno Pelissari will complete the team’s spine with their strong presence in defence and midfield.

Both the sides have invested on grooming Indian youngsters, some of whom are already looking to hit the scene in a big way. Similar is the case with Mohun Bagan and Real Kashmir, who are also looking to strike the right balance between their foreign and Indian recruits.

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