I-League: Confident East Bengal prepped for title decider

On match eve, East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez said his team is trying to enjoy the moment amid the pressure of a must-win I-League fixture against Gokulam Kerala on the final day of the season.

Published : Mar 08, 2019 20:00 IST , Kozhikode

East Bengal players train ahead the fixture against Gokulam Kerala at EMS Corporation Stadium on Saturday.
East Bengal players train ahead the fixture against Gokulam Kerala at EMS Corporation Stadium on Saturday.

East Bengal players train ahead the fixture against Gokulam Kerala at EMS Corporation Stadium on Saturday.

Are you under pressure? You are very close to your first I-League title, will you sleep peacefully tonight? Will you be keen to know mid-match about what is happening in Coimbatore between Chennai City FC and Minerva Punjab?

Chennai City FC vs Minerva Punjab FC - LIVE!

Gokulam Kerala FC vs East Bengal - LIVE!

A lot of questions about the various possibilities that could happen on Saturday, the I-League’s deciding day, were thrown at East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez on the eve of his team’s crucial game against Gokulam Kerala FC at the EMS Corporation Stadium here on Friday evening.

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But the Spaniard, a former Real Madrid youth coach, tried to cut down the noise as much as possible.

“We are trying to stay quiet, enjoying the moment and looking at our fans cheering for us,” said Alejandro. “We have full confidence in our team, we are ready to go for a win.”

A win on Saturday alone may not be enough for the Red-and-Gold brigade to lay its hands on the I-League trophy for the first time. For East Bengal, with 39 points, is just a point behind league leader Chennai City and will want the latter to either lose or draw against defending champion Minerva in Coimbatore.

“The best thing for us is to try to focus on our match and then see what happens,” said Alejandro.

With its star striker, Mexican Enrique Esqueda, in fine touch now on his comeback after a rib injury, East Bengal does not look at Gokulam Kerala FC, a side which it beat 3-1 earlier, as a big threat. However, it will be without forward Jobby Justin, who was slapped with a six-match suspension for an ugly spat with an Aizawl FC defender earlier.

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Meanwhile, Gokulam coach Gift Raikhan said though his team – which is near the bottom of the table with 17 points – does not have anything to lose, it will fight.

“I don’t have anything to gain, I have nothing to lose but I want to win. We are under no pressure, so our players will be playing with a free mind. We have nothing to lose but they will prove that they are equal to East Bengal,” he said.

With that being the situation, the visitor opted for a 1pm training session, under a burning sun, so that the players could go to bed early and rest well for their big day.

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