On a high after registering back-to-back victories, Mohun Bagan will seek to notch up a win over arch-rivals East Bengal and brighten their I-League football title hopes when the two sides clash each other in the return leg derby match here tomorrow.
Going into the business end of the tournament, the 2014-15 champions Mohun Bagan are on a roll after their 3-0 win against Bengaluru FC in I-League and then a 3-1 victory against Bangladeshi outfit Abahani in the AFC Cup.
A victory in the derby match tomorrow will give Bagan the bragging rights as they would look to carry forward the winning momentum against their rivals who will play their first match since March 12.
East Bengal may have a larger support base at the Kanchenjunga Stadium and ahead on points against their rivals, but on current form Mohun Bagan will fancy their chances.
“Their current form shows that they are in a better form. Our players have to wear the shirt and show. I have been very disappointed in the last two games, tomorrow is the day to make it right,” Trevor Morgan, the East Bengal head coach, said on the eve of the match here.
Currently the top two in the table, Aizawl FC (30) and East Bengal (27) have four matches remaining while Mohun Bagan (26) have an extra game in hand as the stakes would be high in the high-profile return leg derby.
Morgan said his side have not given up hopes and would look to remain in the hunt for their elusive I-League title.
“The minimum, I feel that we need to remain in the hunt is a point. Can’t say the game will be a do or die, never know what is going to happen in football. If we win tomorrow, it puts us right back in it,” he said.
“If we win, we go four points clear of Mohun Bagan and if we lose, Mohun Bagan will be two points ahead of us with a game in hand. We do depend on other teams but it wouldn’t matter who we are playing tomorrow. What it will depend upon is that do we pick up points or not.”
This will also be an emotional day for East Bengal’s attacking midfielder Mehtab Hossain who will appear in his 55th derby and perhaps his last.
“Mehtab’s been a fantastic player for EB, he has been a great servant. I hope he can finish his EB career on a winning note. Others are well aware of how Mehtab has played for EB, I don’t have to go around and tell them to play for him.”
In the first leg, both sides played out a goalless draw.
For East Bengal, star midfielder Wedson Anselme is back in the squad after a five-week injury lay-off while Willis Plaza and Robin Singh will look to give them the initial advantage.
Ivan Bukenya will be their key man at the backline while it remains to be seen whether Morgan goes for Gurwinder Singh or Arnab Mondal who’s still not looking match-fit.
Mohun Bagan will miss Pranoy Halder and Subhasish Bose because of injuries. Upfront, captain Katsumi Yusa and Balwant Singh will be a threat while Sony Norde would be the one to watch out for his tricky moves.
“We are not yet in a better position, we are trying to go to a better position by winning the derby. This game is important for us. We are confident. We started dropping points after drawing against EB last derby. We need to maintain consistency, the one part we have been lacking in throughout the season,” Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen said.
“All the remaining games we have, all are important and tough for us. We have to show more character in playing these games,” he said as Mohun Bagan take on Shillong Lajong, Minerva Punjab, Aizawl FC (all away) and Chennai City (home) in their remaining matches.
“People think we are ahead because we have played two games last week. But you cannot say all this, especially in a derby when other things also come in. No advantage because they had a gap. They planned according to their fixtures list, we also do that too.”