Emami East Bengal will seek to build on the long-lost momentum as it takes on its traditional rival Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the latest edition of Indian football’s showpiece contest – the Kolkata derby – in the final of the 132nd Durand Cup, at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Sunday.
FOLLOW THE MATCH LIVE HERE: EAST BENGAL VS MOHUN BAGAN SUPER GIANT LIVE SCORE
The title clash could not have seen a better line-up, with another episode of the more-than-a-century-old clash between two of the oldest clubs of the continent.
East Bengal has the edge this season having prevailed over its avowed foe by a solitary goal in the group league stage of the tournament.
The first derby win of the season, which ended an eight-game losing streak for East Bengal on August 12, will be providing the necessary confidence to the side as it aims to lift the Durand Cup for the record 17th occasion.
The last moment of glory for the red-and-gold brigade happened 19 years ago in 2004 when it triumphed in a similar derby, beating Mohun Bagan 2-1 at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi.
Mohun Bagan, which also has 16 titles under its belt, lifted the crown last in the year 2000. It would be eager to get its name etched on the trophy too, looking to end more than two decades of title drought.
The reigning Indian Super League champion may have sufficient reasons to feel confident with its current form as it beat the likes of ISL league shield winner Mumbai City FC and the traditionally strong FC Goa in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively before moving to the title round.
East Bengal had a comparatively easier draw in the knock-out stage where it beat former I-League champion Gokulam Kerala before overcoming NorthEast United FC in the tie-breakers in the semifinals.
“After the draw with the Bangladesh Army team in our first outing we had a discussion with the team and tried to improve with each session. Then we won the Derby. We continued to improve match by match and reached the final. It is just the beginning of the process and I am happy with the way things are going,” said East Bengal coach Carles Cuadrat.
On his arrival, the Spanish coach promised to turn things around for East Bengal in the new season. And the way things have turned so far, the fans should be happy with the way the club has tackled its opponents, remaining unbeaten so far.
“There are a lot of new players in the team and among foreigners, I have only worked with Cleiton (Silva) in the past. So it’s just the beginning of the process. The last time East Bengal beat Mohun Bagan in consecutive two matches was in 2016. We hope to do it again and try to win the trophy,” Cuadrat, who had helped Bengaluru FC win the ISL in 2019, sought to assure the East Bengal fans.
The derby duel is more of a battle of nerve and spirit where Cuadrat’s East Bengal scored over Juan Ferrando’s Mohun Bagan in the first meeting.
Mohun Bagan has shown good form ever since the derby loss and has won four matches including the two AFC Cup preliminary playoffs against Machhindra FC of Nepal and Bangladesh’s Abahani Dhaka.
“For me, the past is in the past. Every match is different. Honestly, in the last derby, I was more focused on the AFC Cup matches but now I am happy that my players have passed the test and now we are in the group stage. Tomorrow we have an opportunity to play against a good team. It is a good target and a good challenge for us. We will try to win the trophy,” Ferrando said ahead of the final.
The organizers expect a crowd of over 50,000 as both teams speak of winning the trophy. This has set the stage for an absorbing clash as the traditional opponents draw their forces in the battle array to decide the right to claim the coveted crown.
The Durand Cup 2023 final between Mohun Bagan Super Giant and East Bengal will be played at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday at 4 pm.
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