Both sides are capable of winning it: Masefield, Caldeira discuss Kolkata Derby on the LFL show

The Kolkata Derby, Indian football's biggest fixture resumes in a few days’ time as ATK Mohun Bagan and East Bengal FC lock horns for the first time in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season. Not only that, this will be the first Kolkata Derby that will be played at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in the Hero ISL after two seasons in the Covid bio-bubble.

However, expert Darren Caldeira, who featured in last week’s Let’s Football Live show alongside former Mohun Bagan player Darren Caldeira, and Suyash, believes that the upcoming Kolkata derby will be different given how East Bengal FC have grown in strength.

Watch the full LFL show here

“I think this derby will be competitive,” Masefield said on the LFL show.

“East Bengal FC have struggled in the last couple of seasons. You look back at the time that Robbie Fowler had to get his team ready to go out there and perform, the players that they got in, it was very late. It was very hard to get a cohesive unit. It happened the following season as well when the team got assembled enmasse.

However, this season, they (East Bengal FC) have turned around and done their business early. They have brought in someone who knows Indian football in Stephen Constantine. He knows how to grind out results and that’s what he does. It took him a little while to find his balance, to find the side that he wanted to play and assemble an eleven that could work. He’s falling upon it now. I’m so eagerly looking forward to this,” he added.

Masefield believes both sides have a chance to win the game, but that handling the pressure won’t come easy, notably for the young players. He revealed that playing in front of big crowds could be intimidating for the players.

“East Bengal have gone from strength to strength and they are getting better in each game,” he said. “It will be an intriguing, mouth-watering fixture with both sides capable of winning. If the pressure gets to the players, and it does, to some of the younger players who have never experienced this before. Some of them have never played in front of crowds up until this season. When you have got 60,000-80,000 people going absolutely mental, that is a different pressure.”

Overall, ATK Mohun Bagan hold a perfect record in the Kolkata Derby, recording four wins from four games. However, Caldeira said the Red & Golds look like a different unit this season compared to the previous two campaigns.

“This is a completely different season,” he said. “East Bengal have had a decent pre-season. They have played in the Durand Cup already and that is a plus point. Constantine has had a slow start to the league. The first two games, East Bengal FC didn’t seem up to the races but you could see in the last game, that he is finally getting his starting eleven right, the formation and the personnel.”

So far, both sides have bagged three points so far this season, although ATK Mohun Bagan have a game in hand. But both the Kolkata sides will be high on confidence heading into the derby after registering wins in the previous game. Darren, though, felt that current form is irrelevant and that either side could come out on top.

“The current form does not matter when it comes to the Kolkata Derby,” he said. “But East Bengal FC are looking different, they have got some confidence especially after beating NorthEast United FC. They look like a side who can grind out results and defensively they can keep it tight. You can see the kind of attack ATK Mohun Bagan have. They withstood that pressure (against Kerala Blasters) and when they went a goal down, I thought it was game over. But they somehow managed to crawl their way back and in that second half, they decimated Kerala Blasters. It’s going to be the closest Kolkata derby that we’ve had in the Hero ISL so far, and it’s going to be a fascinating clash.

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