Preview: East Bengal FC look to end ISL hoodoo against Mohun Bagan SG
Mohun Bagan SG and East Bengal FC lock horns for the first Kolkata derby of ISL 2023-24 on Saturday.
Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 will witness its first Kolkata Derby of the season when Mohun Bagan Super Giant square off against East Bengal FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on February 3, Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. In a fixture with profound historical significance and a rivalry that has been fostered for over a century, the Red & Gold Brigade will be heading into this game as equal favourites to clinch the three points after their resounding success in the Kalinga Super Cup held in Odisha.
After a few disappointing campaigns, the team turned a new chapter with the appointment of former Bengaluru FC head coach Carles Cuadrat as their tactician. First, they made it to the final of the Durand Cup, got into the playoff spots halfway into the ISL campaign, and have now finally won silverware that gives them a chance to compete in Asia next year.
Also Read: ISL 2023-24: Has the Kolkata derby's landscape changed?
The Mariners, on the other hand, came into the season with one of the strongest squads at their disposal after the acquisition of multiple marquee players in the summer. However, injury issues coupled with other complications saw them struggle in December, in conjunction with the departure of Juan Ferrando and the arrival of a familiar face Antonio Lopez Habas back to the club.
Habas will be on the touchline for the first time in this ISL season and he could not have come across a better opportunity than the Kolkata Derby to create an impact. Regardless of the concerns in the opening half, the Mariners have it in them to bounce back and finish this season on a high. They will be hoping to avenge the loss in the Kolkata Derby during the Super Cup, and what better occasion to do that than Lopez’s first ISL game in charge since his comeback?
What’s at stake?
Mohun Bagan Super Giant
The Mariners had won the ISL trophy last year and they responded strongly to that in a bid to go one step further and potentially bag the shield this year. However, despite all his strengths, Ferrando was in some ways falling short of setting them up in a way that he could maximise the strengths of every star player in his roster. Habas, on the other hand, has been a proven customer in the ISL.
He knows the drill and understands the expectations that come with being at the helm of a formidable club like this. Moreover, Mohun Bagan Super Giant do not want to let go of their objectives for this year, and hence have gone in with someone who can get them the results straightaway.
In fact, Habas boasts of a good record against his counterpart Cuadrat, having played against his teams on five occasions in the ISL previously and winning thrice along with drawing once in those encounters. The Mariners have in fact won each of their six games against East Bengal FC in ISL history, and that’s a record they will be hoping to hold dear to at the end of the 90 minutes of the coming encounter.
East Bengal FC
As mentioned above, East Bengal FC does not have an impressive record in the ISL against their arch-rivals. However, the tables have turned this year, which started with them bagging their first Kolkata Derby win in over four years when they triumphed over the Mariners in the Durand Cup in August.
They repeated that feat with another heroic effort in the Super Cup, and coach Cuadrat is desperately eyeing a third such victory in the biggest stage of them all on Saturday. Their title-winning effort last month aside, the Red & Gold Brigade enters this match on the back of three consecutive goalless draws in the ISL.
Their defensive solidity this year has been laudable, but that needs to translate into greater freedom to their forwards to explore goal-scoring opportunities upfront. Cuadrat will, however, be cautious of not letting their instincts and confidence get the better of them, as the sheer individual brilliance brimming through the Mohun Bagan Super Giant ranks can rip apart any backline when on song. All in all, we are in for a cracker of a contest this weekend!
Subhasish Bose (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)
Emotions ride high during the Kolkata Derby and nobody would know that better than a local lad, who has grown up observing this clash from close quarters. Subhasish Bose is an out and out Mariner, and he says that the overriding support he receives from his fans help him give his 100% and more to such games even when he is tired in the final phase of the match. Subhasish is an essential member of the Mohun Bagan Super Giant squad – a defensive stalwart in his own right.
He can fill in at the centre, play on the flank, contributes tirelessly on the defensive front and can produce a magical moment in the final third too. Bose is relentless in his pursuit of winning the ball back, putting his body on the line and committing to challenges like few other defenders can. East Bengal FC will have to work out a way to neutralise his strengths if they are serious about breaching the defensive arrangement of the Mariners, especially given Habas and his focus on building his teams resiliently from the back.
Cleiton Silva (East Bengal FC)
East Bengal FC need to find their scoring boots to fetch the coveted three points from this match and their best bet for the same is their Brazilian talisman and skipper Cleiton Silva. Into his fourth season in the ISL, Silva has scored 33 goals and bagged eight assists in 61 appearances. He has netted five times in 10 games in this campaign, creating 15 goal-scoring opportunities and winning 16 aerial duels as well.
Silva plays a key role in the build-up, dropping back to add numbers in the centre and then producing a brust of pace to get into the box and optimise the chances coming his way. He is undoubtedly one of the premier, topmost strikers in the ISL currently and he will find a fitting match in the Mohun Bagan Super Giant defence. He averages 27 passes per game and taking a shot on target every 90 minutes. Silva will have to be at the top of his game, sharp in his movements and clinical in his finishing to ensure that the Red & Gold Brigade do not have troubles finding the back of the net.
Played – 6
Mohun Bagan Super Giant – 6
East Bengal FC – 0
Draws – 0
“My intention in football always is to prepare my team in a way that it can fight the opponents. Yes, the opponent is important, but for me, first, I look at my team and work on them rather than looking at the opposition,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas explained.
“After a big win, you can lose concentration and we are working on that. However, I know I don’t have to ask for motivation from my players because they are totally focused and very motivated to play another big game against our opponent in the city,” East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat said in the pre-match press conference.
Cleiton Silva (7.3cr)
Five goals in the campaign until now
Nandhakumar Sekar (6.5cr)
Has been amongst the goals in other derbies across different competitions this season
Jason Cummings (9.4cr)
Could make an impact upfront with his goal-scoring appetite
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Where to Watch
Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season. will be delivered across more than 190 countries.