East Bengal, which finished runner-up last season, will begin its I-League campaign against Real Kashmir at the Kalyani Municipality Stadium on Wednesday.

The Kalyani Municipality Stadium will serve as the home venue of both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan except for the two derby matches.

East Bengal enjoyed a strong season last year that saw it fall a mere point shy of the title. Under the guidance of coach Alejandro Menendez, the red-and-gold brigade drew with Real Kashmir at home and scored a victory in Srinagar last season and this will give them a psychological advantage before they start their season.

Speaking ahead of the game, Menendez said, “Real Kashmir are a very solid and strong side, their defence is very compact. We are very well aware that they are a very competitive outfit. The onus now lies on us, we need to be really accurate and sharp whenever we have the chance to attack.

“We need to perform well in this match to enhance our chances and to get success in the league. Otherwise, things can get tricky towards the end of the season. I believe it is going to be a very tough game,” he added.

Real Kashmir, on the other hand, had a dream season last year. The side became the first-ever team from Kashmir to play in the I-League and finished a remarkable third with 37 points from 20 games.

All eyes will be on the marquee player and head coach David Robertson’s son, Mason Lee Robertson who possesses the ability to play in different positions.

The Srinagar-based team has been further bolstered with the arrival of former NEROCA FC striker Singham Subash Singh and winger Kallum Michael Higginbotham, who comes in from Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic Football Club.

“Last season, we had a good season and defended well and had a very good defensive record. This season we have added more firepower and hope to score more goals this season,” said coach Robertson.

“East Bengal are a very tough side to play against they are stronger than last season. I think they will be one of the strongest teams this season,” he added.