I-League 2018: East Bengal hosts Real Kashmir in a battle to reach the top

A resurgent East Bengal side hosts second-placed Real Kashmir, which has remained unbeaten for more than five weeks now, in an exciting I-league contest on Friday.

East Bengal players engage in a training session ahead of their clash against Real Kashmir.   -  AIFF MEDIA

Newcomer Real Kashmir's track record so far will keep East Bengal on its toes when the two teams meet for the first time in the I-League at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Friday.

A win for either side will see the team move to the top of the table. The second-placed Real Kashmir, which has remained unbeaten for more than five weeks now, stunned table-topper Chennai City FC at home and would like to bolster its giant-killing reputation by handing the third-ranked EB, which is only two points away on 15, the same treatment.

The two sides have adopted contrasting approaches in their campaigns. While Real Kashmir has progressed by guarding its post tightly, by maintaining five clean sheets and as many goals conceded (the least by any team), EB has done well on the strength of its strikers, such as Joby Justin (five goals) and Enrique Alejandro (two), to share the top spot for most number goals scored (16).

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Real Kashmir, though, has found it tough to score goals. Other than its 6-1 victory over Lajong, the team has scored only six goals in eight matches.

East Bengal, which RK has conceded 11 goals in eight outings, appeared a bit vulnerable in defence. "It will be a tough match and we have to be attentive," said coach Alejandro Menendez.

The side will be without the services of forward Bali Gagandeep, who earned a red card against Churchill Brothers. However, midfielder Toni Dovale, who was signed for Mahmoud Al-Amna, could make an appearance.

Like East Bengal, which has recorded three consecutive victories, Real Kashmir will also want to keep winning. "We want to keep our momentum going. We have to be realistic," said RK coach David Robertson.

Roberston will have to wait top see if Mason Robertson is fit to play as the defender has suffered a bout of food poisoning.