1/27/2019 9:47:36 PM (GMT+3)

I-League: Mohun Bagan meet East Bengal in clash of titans

I-League: Mohun Bagan meet East Bengal in clash of titans

KOLKATA: Mohun Bagan-East Bengal derby may not match the excitement of its heydays, yet it is very much significant in Indian football today.

There were no pre-match verbal volleys between the coaches of these two iconic clubs, who have non-Bengalis to guide their ships this season.

East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez is a Spaniard while former India international Khalid Jamil, born in Kuwait and raised in Mumbai, may not understand the significance of such a battle from the historical point of view but both are aware that a victory here on Sunday will boost their title hopes in I-League.

The red and gold brigade, who are currently fourth, have 22 points while the Mariners are sixth on the table with 21 from 13 matches.  

A win will close the gap on leaders Chennai City FC. who are at the top with 30 points from 13 games.

“This game is indeed a crucial one for us and we are enough focused for it. We will play our normal game like we did in the 12 matches. My boys are equally experienced and they know how to win derbies,” said Menendez. “We are focusing only on the next match. We have to fight and get full three points to stay in the title race."

East Bengal had beaten their traditional rivals 3-2 in the first phase, but Jamil, who joined the club recently, will be eager to turn the tables this time.

“This is not a personal challenge for me. Derby is all about a team game. I have come here to help Bagan. I’m trying hard,” said Jamil, who also had a stint at East Bengal in 2017-18 season. “East Bengal is a good team. They’ve some excellent players. All I can say is, I’m ready for Sunday.”

The former India midfielder has done well after he joined Bagan early this month as he revived the team’s fortune in the 11-team competition, winning back-to-back matches.

The I-League-winning former Aizawl coach will once again bank on the Haitian international Sony Norde to deliver the knockout punch.

Norde, who played a crucial role in Bagan’s triumph in 2015, has had a long injury lay-off. But off late, he’s in stupendous form and can be Jamil’s trump card against their Maidan rivals.

“The media has hailed Sony (Norde) as an amazing player. Let’s wait for tomorrow. We don’t have any special plans to mark for Norde,” said Menendez.