Indian Super League (ISL) sides, East Bengal FC and Punjab FC are set to lock horns in the final fixture of Group A in the Durand Cup 2023 at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata, while FC Goa will look to book their place in the quarter-finals with a victory against Downtown Heroes FC in the opening fixture on Monday.

East Bengal FC eye quarter-final spot

Carles Cuadrat's team is brimming with confidence following a remarkable 1-0 victory over city rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the Kolkata derby on Saturday. The Red and Gold Brigade displayed an outstanding performance to defeat the star-studded Mohun Bagan Super Giant, securing their first win under the leadership of new head coach Cuadrat.

East Bengal FC had hit their lowest point after suffering eight successive derby losses and also squandered two points against Bangladesh Army FT in the opening match of the Durand Cup, where they let slip a two-nil lead. However, their spirited performance in the derby has undoubtedly lifted the mood within the East Bengal camp.

Having accumulated two points from two games, their destiny is in their hands, and a victory against Punjab FC will guarantee their spot in the quarter-finals. The Red and Gold Brigade aim to maintain their momentum in the upcoming match against the newly-promoted Punjab FC.

“It felt surreal to win the derby in front of our fans on Saturday. The kind of support we got that day was spectacular and it was one of the prime reasons why the boys felt more motivated to give their best on the pitch,” East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat said in the pre-match press conference.

East Bengal FC will boast full strength with the addition of captain Cleiton Silva and Spanish defender Jose Antonio Pardo. Furthermore, side back Nishu Kumar will also be eligible for the game after completing his one-match ban in the Kolkata derby.

“However, the derby win is past now and our focus has shifted to our next match against Punjab FC, which is going to be a virtual knockout for us. We have been trying to analyse our mistakes and see where we can improve. Having both Cleiton Silva and Jose Pardo join our training ahead of the crucial match is also a big plus,” Carles added.

Punjab FC, on the other hand, are still struggling to find their momentum in the Durand Cup, having secured just one point from two games. They are also yet to find the back of the net. Despite several lineup changes made by head coach Staikos Vergetis following their 2-0 loss to MBSG in the opening fixture, they couldn't rekindle their spirit in the subsequent match and were held to a goalless draw by Bangladesh Army FT.

The Shers not only require a victory in this match but also have to depend on the outcomes of other matches to advance to the quarter-finals as one of the second-best teams.

Gaurs aim to return to victory

FC Goa will also strive to secure their spot in the quarter-finals by clinching a victory against Downtown Heroes FC in their final group stage encounter.

The Gaurs began their Durand Cup campaign with a resounding 6-0 triumph over Shillong Lajong in the opening match. However, they had to settle for a draw against NorthEast United FC in the second match, indicating that Manolo Marquez's squad still requires three more points to guarantee their advancement to the knockout stages.

With players like Carlos Martinez and Noah Sadaoui currently displaying a knack for scoring goals, finding the back of the net hasn't posed a problem for the ISL outfit. Nonetheless, the Spanish tactician would seek to bolster his defensive line for this match, especially after conceding two avoidable goals in the previous encounter.

Downtown Heroes are yet to open their account and would be keen to put a strong fight against FC Goa on Wednesday.