Mohun Bagan, East Bengal ready their arsenal ahead of Kolkata Derby

Emotions will run high when Mohun Bagan clashes with arch-rival East Bengal in the penultimate I-League derby between the traditional powerhouses of Indian football.

The oldest football club in India, Mohun Bagan, is all set to enter the lucrative Indian Super League from next season after its merger with ATK.   -  PTI

The oldest club rivalry of the continent will be seeing another chapter getting added to its long and interesting history when the city giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal face off for the 368th occasion (in 99 years), at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. With Mohun Bagan migrating to next season’s ISL announcing a merger with the former champion ATK, this probably will be the last Kolkata derby of the I-League.

There is another derby scheduled in the return phase of the I-League but that match is unlikely to be held in the city or the Salt Lake Stadium as its host East Bengal is reportedly looking for a cheaper alternative outside the city.


Truckload of Mohun Bagan fans make their way to the stadium for the Kolkata Derby against rival East Bengal. (File photo)   -  AIFF Media

On the count of performance this season, Mohun Bagan is enjoying the momentum currently having won four, drawn two and lost just one in its last seven outings. This makes Bagan the current league leader and it will be looking to forge ahead this advantage against its traditional rival.

READ | Katsumi Yusa: Playing in Kolkata Derby a stirring feeling

Interestingly, Mohun Bagan’s only loss so far has been against Churchill Brothers, which happened more than a month ago on December 8. Ever since, the Green and Maroon brigade under its Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna, has won four and drawn one in an unbeaten run extending for the last five matches.

For East Bengal the path so far has been quite bumpy as the team progressed haltingly winning two, drawing two and losing as many to tally eight points from six matches.

East Bengal, also managed by a Spanish coach in Alejandro Menendez, started the season well and the team enjoyed a brief stay on top of the standings. Things started going wrong in the new year as the team suffered consecutive defeats and lost its preeminent status to drop down to its present fifth position.

East Bengal veteran Sukumar Samajpati talks about why he would always pick the gold and red over their arch rivals, despite a stint with the ISL-bound club on this episode of Sportstar's Talktime.

After a fairly moderate performance in the local Calcutta Football League, where it lost the crown to unheralded Peerless SC, Mohun Bagan seemed to have stepped on the gas when it came to performing in the national format.

The team has struck a nice balance with its young domestic recruits like Nongdamba Naorem , Subha Ghosh and Sheikh Sahil combining well with its foreign recruits like Fran Gonzalez and the play-maker Joseba Beitia.

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East Bengal is yet to find the right combination among its ranks and hope that the likes of Jaime Colado and Juan Mera tilt the balance in favour of the Red and Golds with their creative abilities. When it comes to the duel in the midfield, East Bengal may be enjoying a little edge with the creative Spaniards showing nice consistency so far. The last time the two met was in the CFL earlier in the season and the result was a bland 0-0.


East Bengal fans unfurl their banner at the stadium. East Bengal celebrated 100 years of its existence last year. (File photo)   -  AIFF Media

“I think every derby is a special game. The dynamics of both teams are very different, but when a derby arrives, the previous statistics do not count much making everything more or less equal,” Vicuna said ahead of the match. “It is about all the derbies in the world. It doesn’t matter if you are first or second or fourth. The team is doing pretty well but the important thing is to remain focused," he dded.

“In a derby it hardly matters how teams arrive at the match. We have had some issues in the season with injuries to some key players causing problems but we are still confident. We are going to give a good fight on Sunday,” said Alejandro Menendez, giving out East Bengal’s position ahead of the big match.

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