I-League: Relegated Mumbai FC hosts East Bengal

A string of four straight defeats has dented the glamour outfit’s title hopes, but the convincing 3-1 win at home against Minerva Punjab FC in its last game has rekindled East Bengal’s hopes of finishing in the top three.

One last time! The fans will be hoping to catch their beloved Mumbai FC play in the I-League top-division one last time before it gets relegated to the second division.   -  AIFF MEDIA

With its title-hopes already up in smoke, Kolkata’s East Bengal will travel to relegated Mumbai FC (MFC) in the final round of I-League matches on Saturday. The team from Bengal can still guarantee a third place finish if it wins or even draws the last game at the Cooperage ground here tomorrow.

A string of four straight defeats has dented the glamour outfit’s title hopes, but the convincing 3-1 win at home against Minerva Punjab FC in its last game has rekindled East Bengal’s hopes of finishing in the top three.

East Bengal’s task of winning the game won’t be easy as MFC, although win-less since the two victories at the beginning of the league, has been unbeaten at home this season after losing 0-1 to table topper Aizawl FC on January 22.

Even the last home game of MFC, against Shillong Lajong FC on Sunday last, ended in a 1-1 draw.

While MFC has defended stoutly at home against all comers, they have not been able to pierce the rivals’ defence and finally bulged the net against Shillong after featuring in five goalless draws.

East Bengal coach Ranjan Chaudhary said the game will enable the team to gear up for the upcoming Federation Cup in Cuttack.

“This is our last match and we will use it as preparation for the Federation Cup. Away matches are always tough, but we will fight it out. We have come with the best choice of 18 players who are all fit,” he said.

MFC, on the other hand, would be keen to secure its first win after more than three months and avoid a last-place finish.

MFC started the league in encouraging fashion, winning 1-0 at home against Pune rival DSK Shivajians and 2-1 against Churchill Brothers in Goa in January.

But after a string of defeats, MFC sacked its head coach Santosh Kashyap and replaced him with Oscar Bruzon.

The Spaniard has spearheaded the team’s undefeated streak at home over the last three ties and would be keen to maintain that record against East Bengal.

“I’m happy with the work of the boys and tomorrow is the last chance to show our capabilities. We will be playing for honour and pride. The team could have been on top. It has been hard and there was also poor selection of foreign players,” he said today.

Defender Clyde Fernandes said that under Bruzon who came on board pretty late, the players have shown improvement.

“We have been playing well and have learnt a lot from this coach. There’s a marked improvement in the team,” said Clyde.

East Bengal defender Rahul Bheke, who had played for Mumbai FC in the past, was sad that MFC won’t be seen in the I-League next season which would be blow to football in the city.

“I am feeling bad that the team is to be relegated. It’s bad for Mumbai football as this is the only club from Mumbai that features in the I-League,” he said.

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