On a high after a hattrick of wins, East Bengal will look to continue its ascent and eye the number one spot when it hosts debutant Gokulam Kerala FC in a sixth round I-League football fixture on Wednesday.
Having started off with two back-to-back draws including one in the season’s first derby, the Khalid Jamil-coached side drew a lot of flak but they’re finally back on winning track, three points shy of leaders Minerva (13). The Kerala outfit, on the other hand, will be boosted by its maiden win of the season that came in the last round against Indian Arrows in a match they scored two goals.
Coach Bino George’s side has managed to score three goals in four matches and two of them have come in the last match.
The debutants would look to challenge the local heavyweights who have scored the maximum goals —12 — so far from five matches.
Katsumi Yusa and Laldanmawia Ralte have been its key to scoring goals with three each, while Willis Plaza has returned to find the target with two to his name against Churchill Brothers.
“I am feeling good at the moment with my game and have been working hard. But the end of the matter is that we need three points,” Plaza said today.
Jamil may also look to go in with Charles De Souza especially after he scored his first goal for the club in the last round, against his former club Chennai City FC.
The best part about East Bengal is that they have also managed to put a strong defensive display led by the centre back duo of Arnab Mondal and Eduardo Ferreira. The Brazilian did a fine job in their last match against Chennai City by keeping in check Jean Micheal Joachim who has four goals to be the league’s leading scorer en route to a 2-1 win.
Gokulam Kerala FC may miss the services of Stephane Kamo Bayi, whose brother Bazie Armand is part of the East Bengal squad.
The participation of Sushanth Mathew and Khalid Al-Saleh are also under cloud after the duo picked up injuries, the latter having scored in the last game.
Striker Leo Mbele and defender Daniel Addo will have added responsibilities to rally a side that lies seventh on the points table but are exempted from relegation.
Emmanuel Chigozie returned to their lineup in the last game and the Calicut-based side will take solace from the fact that they have had a rather tight backline, conceding only five goals so far and will hope to keep it that way.
“I have respect for Kingfisher East Bengal, they are a big team. I am looking for a point here. I am not happy with the performances we have put in so far but this is a new club and it will take time before we start performing,” coach George said today.
Striker Rohit Mirza also echoed his coach: “They are a good side. We take one match at a time. We are working hard and hopefully, we will play well. There is pressure and we will want to win a point.”