The Kolkata Derby returns to the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 with Mohun Bagan Super Giant and East Bengal FC locking horns at the Salt Lake Stadium on March 10, Sunday, at 8:30 pm IST.

A lot has changed for both teams since they last squared off in the top-tier in February. The Red & Gold Brigade were in an imperious form back then, high on confidence, fresh from the back of a victory in the Kalinga Super Cup. Contrastingly, the Mariners had been dealt three straight losses in the league at that time.

However, head coach Antonio Lopez Habas has inspired a formidable turnaround since then, with the team remaining unbeaten in the top-tier under his watch so far. They have won four times and drawn twice in their last six matches, and are within touching distance of the top spot right now.

With 33 points from 16 games, the Mariners can equal league leaders Mumbai City FC (36) with a win, whilst having a game in hand compared to the Islanders who have played 18 games so far as compared to the 16 of the Habas-coached team.

On the other hand, East Bengal FC is not in the best run of form at the moment, losing thrice in their last five games. However, the team has 18 points from as many games, and a win will take them on level terms with the sixth-placed Jamshedpur FC, who have 21 points from 19 encounters until now.

What’s at stake?

Mohun Bagan Super Giant

Habas hailed his players for showing tremendous progression after their last win against Jamshedpur FC. He spoke highly of the fact that the entire unit is clicking cohesively, and covering each blade of the grass to get the desired outcome, game after game.

Mohun Bagan Super Giant is yet to face a loss against East Bengal FC in their seven faceoffs so far in the ISL. The Mariners have won six of these games and drawn once until now.

The reverse fixture that resulted in a 2-2 draw was in fact the only time since 2020 that they dropped points against the Red & Gold Brigade in the ISL.

Only against Odisha FC has Mohun Bagan Super Giant played more games (9) without losing in the competition. Their impressive attacking unit can unravel the opposition’s backline consistently, with the team having scored the most goals from open play amongst all teams in ISL 2023-24 (27).

In fact, along with Hyderabad FC, the Mariners are the only team yet to score from a penalty in the current campaign. Currently, there is a three-way race for the ISL League Winners Shield, with Odisha FC, Mumbai City FC, and the Mariners eyeing the top prize, along with a fairly good chance for the fourth-placed FC Goa too.

Irrespective of the magnitude of the derby, Habas will not want his team to lose points from the coming contest.

East Bengal FC

East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat has expressed the desire to clinch all 12 points possible in their remaining four matches. Whilst the Red & Gold Brigade is dependent on NorthEast United FC, Chennaiyin FC, and Jamshedpur FC dropping points to secure the playoffs qualification, Cuadrat will want his boys to be at the top of their game to overcome the Mariners and bag their first ISL win against the city rivals.

East Bengal FC snapped a three-game-long winless streak at home with a 1-0 victory against Chennaiyin FC at the Salt Lake Stadium.

The fact that the team has taken progressive steps under the tutelage of Carles Cuadrat is undeniable and simultaneously supported by facts too. They have conceded 19 goals so far, their lowest tally after 18 games of any ISL season.

Further, the 19 strikes they have notched thus far is their second-best tally after these many games of any campaign, following the 21 of them that they had bagged in the 2022-23 campaign.

With a tackle success rate of 73.1%, East Bengal FC leads the league in this regard, over seven percentage points more than Mohun Bagan Super Giant (65.9%). They have won 185 out of the 234 tackle attempts in the 2023-24 campaign.

Key Players to Watch Out

Dimitrios Petratos (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

Dimitrios Petratos had bagged the equaliser in the previous Kolkata Derby, and he has been a lively presence in the Mohun Bagan Super Giant frontline throughout the season.

He has created 18 goal-scoring opportunities since the start of 2024, which is the highest amongst players yet to record an assist in the time period. Petratos has netted seven times and assisted once in 14 appearances in this campaign. He has taken 36 shots with 50% of them landing on target.

Petratos has created 30 goal-scoring chances, and averages 30 passes per game at 81% accuracy. He has earned 14 fouls and been stellar from free-kicks, thus adding an all-round element to his gameplay.

Naorem Mahesh Singh (East Bengal FC)

Naorem Mahesh Singh has been a constant presence in the East Bengal FC attacking unit this season. He has scored and assisted twice each, and is on the brink of becoming the first player in the history of the club to start 50 matches for them in the ISL.

Mahesh is already the most capped East Bengal FC player in the ISL with 54 appearances to his name. In the current campaign, Mahesh has earned 30 fouls, won five aerial duels, and averaged 26 passes per game at 74% accuracy.

He has taken nine shots in total, having created 26 goal-scoring opportunities, and has played the ideal foil to the duo of Cleiton Silva and Nandhakumar Sekar so far.

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Played – 7

Mohun Bagan Super Giant – 6

East Bengal FC – 0

Draws – 1

Team Talk

“My players are very motivated. It’s going to be a very good game. We have gotten very good results so far in the Kolkata derbies held this season,” East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat said in the pre-match press conference.

“We are confident. But this is a totally different game, with different players and a different situation altogether. East Bengal FC is in a race to be in the top six, whereas we are fighting for the first place,” Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas said ahead of the game.

ISL Fantasy

Jason Cummings (8.7cr)

Has earned 60 ISL fantasy points this season

Subhasish Bose (4.3cr)

Averaging 70.4 touches per game in ISL 2023-24

Prabsukhan Singh Gill (3.5cr)

Solid presence between the posts for EBFC

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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.