Talking Tactics: Key battles to watch out for in the Kolkata Derby

The Kolkata derby, the game featuring the the fiercest rivals of the city – ATK Mohun Bagan and East Bengal FC, the first one of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season is here. The game is always special but what makes it even more exclusive is that for the first time a Kolkata derby in the Hero ISL will be played at the iconic Salt Lake stadium after two seasons inside the bio-bubble.

For one day, Kolkata will be split in half, and there will be a fierce competition for bragging rights. For the players, who understand how crucial a victory in this match is, the pressure will be at an all-time high. The players on each squad will ultimately decide whether their teams will win or lose this game.

Preview: Kolkata gears up for its first Hero ISL derby at home

However, a select group of players will be actively engaged in the battles that will likely determine the outcome.

Here's a look at some of the key battles that could decide the outcome of the match between these two sides.

Pritam Kotal vs Cleiton Silva

Cleiton Silva is East Bengal FC’s chief goal threat. With two goals in three games, he leads the Red and Golds’ scoring charts. The Brazilian thus offers hope for the supporters because of his deft movement, aptitude for creating chances, and precise finishing. Silva has the potential to wreak havoc in the Kolkata Derby if given too much leeway. He will be up against Pritam Kotal, a Kolkata-born defender who knows exactly what a Kolkata derby win means to the fans.

This season, Kotal appears to be Juan Ferrando’s preferred Indian centre-back but he may be about to face one of his toughest opponents. To neautralise Silva, he will need to keep a tight eye on him and pounce on the opportunities. Silva, on the other hand, will definitely try to profit from Kotal’s sporadic distractions. These two should engage in a particularly compelling combat that has the potential to determine the outcome due to their polarising approaches.

Joni Kauko vs Charalambos Kyriakou

Joni Kauko has been serving as ATK Mohun Bagan’s midfield general ever since his arrival in Kolkata. He is among the first to press the opponent and recover the ball, and almost everything passes through him. The Mariners’ 32-year-old Finnish midfielder, who possesses various skills, serves as the link between the two sides of the field.

If given too much freedom to move around the midfield, Kauko can potentially dictate terms allowing the Mariners’ talented forward to cause the damage. He also has a knack of popping up inside the box and scoring.

However, Kauko will probably face a confident Kyriakou in the derby. In the victory over NorthEast United FC, the newly acquired East Bengal FC player scored a spectacular goal. He also appeared to be a good match in the middle of the field, where he could both vigorously defend his defenders and trouble the opponent players.

Kyriakou’s chief task would be to reduce Kauko’s influence on the game. This conflict should be exciting due to both players’ aggressive and domineering tendencies. The winner is always the one who is mentally and physically stronger.

Dimitri Petratos vs Ivan Gonzalez

Dimitri Petratos has had a very impressive start to his Hero ISL career. He has scored three goals and given two assists in just two games. Out of that, four goals (a hat-trick and an assist) were contributed in the 5-2 victory over the Kerala Blasters FC. Petratos is a calculative, sly, and cunning forward that every teams seeks. He has perfect timing when it comes to slipping into goal-scoring areas or luring defenders away to set up his teammates for goals.

It is obvious that East Bengal FC must keep the talented ATK Mohun Bagan forward quiet in order to shut down one of their main scoring avenues. Ivan Gonzalez, their imposing defender, needs to earn his bread in this duel.

The Spaniard has had a challenging start to his career, making costly mistakes in his first few games. Any of that against the Mariners is unaffordable. To prevent Petratos from creating a commotion in his box, Gonzalez must be able to accurately assess his movements and general fighting style. Gonzalez must also command his defence effectively, ensuring that the other defenders maintain a rigid line and thwart ATK Mohun Bagan.

Gonzalez faces a challenging task in containing Petratos. The East Bengal FC supporters will start to gain favour with Gonzalez if he can prevent the ATK Mohun Bagan striker from controlling the game or endangering his goal.

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