Leaders East Bengal are the form team with a six-match winning streak to boast about, but it will be a different ball game altogether when they resume their rivalry with Mohun Bagan, a squad comprising an explosive attacking force, in the I-League here tomorrow.
Ahead of the famous derby at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, East Bengal led the charts with 19 points from seven matches, while Mohun Bagan have registered 16 points from six games.
East Bengal have won all their matches since a 1-1 draw in the opening fixture of the season against Aizawl FC.
However, coach Sanjoy Sen’s Mohun Bagan will be confident after their 3-2 home win over Aizawl FC and a 2-1 victory over Sri Lankan club Colombo FC in the AFC Cup.
For the Red and Gold brigade, Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Deon Plaza has been in top form since moving from San Juan Jabloteh, scoring five goals in seven appearances so far.
To East Bengal’s discomfort though, Plaza is considered doubtful ahead of the crucial derby, having sustained a minor calf injury during last Sunday’s match against Chennai City FC.
Plaza’s strike partner Wedson Anselme will be one of the crucial players, and could lead the attack if the Trinidadian fails to recover in time. New Australian recruit Chris Payne has been finally cleared to play in the I-League, after his visa issues were cleared.
After sitting out due to suspension against Chennai City FC, which Trevor Morgan’s East Bengal won 3-0, defensive midfielder Mehtab Hossain is fit and raring to go.
As far as the Mariners are concerned, injuries to Kingshuk Debnath and Raju Gaikwad have not helped their cause, though defender Eduardo Ferreira is back from injury.
Mohun Bagan can always rely on their formidable attacking force comprising Sony Norde, Katsumi Yusa, Daryl Duffy and Jeje Lapekhlua, and their arch-rivals are well aware of the threat.
A vital cog in Sen’s team, Haitian forward Norde had a good outing against Colombo FC, scoring and assisting one, and would look to step up tomorrow.
Duffy will be the man to watch out for, having netted seven goals in eight matches.
The last time the two teams met in the I-League, East Bengal emerged 2-1 winners.