I-League: East Bengal looks to extend winning run against Churchill Brothers

East Bengal will return to the iconic Yuba Bharati Krirangan for the first time this I-League season as it faces Churchill Brothers on Saturday.

East Bengal

East Bengal is currently fourth on the I-League points table.

East Bengal will return to the iconic Yuba Bharati Krirangan for the first time this I-League season as it faces Churchill Brothers on Saturday.

After having succumbed to five defeats since the turn of the year, the Red and Golds got their campaign back on track with two successive wins, helping them out of relegation zone.

The Kolkata giant has an opportunity to extend its winning run but the possibility of moving up from the fourth to second place will depend on the outcome of the day’s third fixture involving Gokulam Kerala and Punjab.

“Team is getting used to new methods, but we are still on the way,” said East Bengal coach Mario Rivera.

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Weighing in on its next opponent, he added, “Churchill are always a difficult team with good foreigners. They are very competitive. Last season, we couldn’t win against them in the first leg but we will try to get it this time.”

Churchill Brothers, currently third on the table, had its winning run thwarted by the Red and Gold’s arch-rival Mohun Bagan.

However, the Red Machines’ last trip to the city of joy was one to remember, running out 4-2 winners against the league leader and till date, remain the only side to have inflicted defeat on Mohun Bagan this season.

Churchill Brothers coach Bernardo Tavares said, “East Bengal will always be a challenge to any team, no matter what. We were on a good run and we had the chance to cut Mohun Bagan’s lead at the top and unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.”

“Defeats are always disappointing but we have learnt from the mistakes we made, and hopefully, against East Bengal, we can make it count and come home with a result.”

Gokulam eyeing revenge against Punjab

Gokulam Kerala will be keen to avenge its defeat last month to Punjab FC when the teams square up for the return leg on Saturday.

The Kerala team was beaten 1-3 at Ludhiana. The league has progressed quite a bit since then; now it is not far from entering the business end.

So Gokulam has to win as many games as possible at home from now on. It had failed to take full points from either of its last two matches at the Corporation Stadium; it was held to a 1-1 draw by TRAU and stunned 0-1 by Real Kashmir.

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Gokulam would also be wanting to put behind it the 2-3 defeat to Neroca in its last match, despite enjoying a 2-1 lead at the interval at Imphal. With 17 points from 12 games, it is placed way below the leader Mohun Bagan, which has 32 points from 13 matches. Punjab is placed second with 21 points.

A win against Gokulam will help it narrow the gap with Bagan. But it won't be easy against one of the strongest sides in the competition. Also, its defenders may not find it easy to contain Gokulam's dangerous duo up front, Marcus Joseph and Henry Kisekka, who have scored 11 goals between them.

For its goals, Punjab will be looking to Aser Dipanda Dicka, the Cameroonian striker who is on top of the goalscorers' list (nine), along with Fran Gonzalez of Bagan.

Real Kashmir looks to continue winning run at home

In another fixture on Saturday, Real Kashmir will be confident of continuing its winning run at home when it takes on former winner Aizawl FC on Saturday.

The ‘Snow Leopards’ are placed fifth in the league table with 18 points from 12 games and a win in the next outing would put them level on points with second-placed Punjab FC which has 21 points from 13 matches.

Aizawl (15 points after 13 games) is placed 10th among 11 teams and battling relegation. A win for the 2016-17 champion would help it reach 18 points, the same as RKFC.

 

(With inputs from P.K. Ajith Kumar)

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