Old I-League rivals will meet for the second time in this year’s ISL campaign.

East Bengal will begin their second half of the league season on Friday by taking on Bengaluru FC at Kolkata. The Red & Golds won the previous encounter between these two sides at Bengaluru. They will definitely like to repeat their performance from that game and get a few points to stay aloof for a top-six finish. The Kolkata-based side has lost their last two games, with the previous one being a 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Mumbai City at home. Hence, in their consecutive home game, the side would like to bounce back to register a win.

Bengaluru FC are having a similar campaign to East Bengal. The Blues have managed to win only three games out of their 11 and have drawn once. After winning a game against Jamshedpur FC, the side again lost their might against Hyderabad. The Nizams humbled Bengaluru in the game by scoring three goals without conceding once.

With East Bengal’s very poor home form this season, there are no clear favourites in the game. But, with the game being East Bengal’s home fixture, the Kolkata Giants will undoubtedly begin with a slight edge. On the other hand, Bengaluru shall be looking to capitalise on the poor home run of East Bengal and get at least one point from the game. In light of these, let us take a look at what the encounter has to offer.

The Stakes

East Bengal

East Bengal will have to win the game at home in order to avert pressure from fans. The team is already under tremendous pressure from fans and other stakeholders in Kolkata for not being able to win a single home game. Hence, going ahead, they have no other option than to win Friday’s game to release some of the pressure.

Three points are very essential for the Kolkata side if they want to pursue a top-six finish. The fact that East Bengal have defeated Bengaluru FC once in the league will provide the side some inspiration. Stephen Constantine would like his men to repeat their performance from that game to ensure yet another win against their old rivals from the I-League days.

East Bengal is currently placed ninth on the points table with nine points from 10 games. The side has won only three matches and lost all of the remaining seven. A win will take them to 12 points and push them above Bengaluru to the eighth spot. It will also take them closer to the sixth spot which is occupied by Odisha FC (19 points).

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC is having a very poor season with only three wins and one draw from 11 games. This comes as a surprise for the Blues after their triumph at the Durand Cup. What should have been a smooth continuation of their Durand Cup performance turned out to be a struggle for finding rhythm. With a top-six finish hope still being on, the Blues will like to change their season’s course and get back to winning ways against East Bengal.

Bengaluru FC shall also be eyeing revenge against the Kolkata Giants for their first-leg defeat. They are aware of the poor home form of the Red & Golds. Hence, it would not be a surprise to see Grayson’s men go all-out against East Bengal right from the first whistle.

Bengaluru FC are placed eighth with 10 points from 11 games. They are just above East Bengal on the points table with a point more. Hence, getting at least a point is very important for the side to prevent East Bengal from overtaking them. Three points on Friday will take the side to 13 points, keeping them in the same spot, one point behind Chennaiyin FC.

Injury & Team News

East Bengal have a few niggles in the side meanwhile Bengaluru FC will have a full roster to choose from.

Head-to-Head

To date, East Bengal and Bengaluru FC have met five times in the ISL.

Played – 5

East Bengal – 2

Bengaluru FC – 2

Drawn – 1

Predicted Line-ups

East Bengal (4-4-2)

Kamaljit Singh (GK); Ankit Mukherjee, Lalchungnunga, Ivan Gonzalez, Jerry Lalrinzuala; Aniket Jadhav, Alex Lima, Charalambos Kyriakou, Naorem Mahesh Singh; Semboi Haokip, Cleiton Silva

Bengaluru FC (5-3-2)

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK); Namgyal Bhutia, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Sandesh Jhingan, Parag Shrivas, Naorem Roshan Singh; Javi Hernández, Suresh Singh, Danish Farooq; Sunil Chhetri, Roy Krishna

Player to Watch

Cleiton Silva (East Bengal)

Cleiton Silva against Mumbai City. (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Cleiton Silva has been the best attacker for East Bengal this season. He has started all the games for the club and has scored five times in their 10 games. In their victorious first-leg outing against Bengaluru, Cleiton was the sole goal-scorer of the game. Taking inspiration from that fixture, the 35-year-old would like to score again on Friday to ensure three points for his side.

Javi Hernandez (Bengaluru FC)

Javi Hernandez against Hyderabad FC. (Courtesy: ISL Media)

In a bleak season for the Blues, Javi has been in very good form. He is the highest goal-scorer of Bengaluru FC with three goals from 10 matches. He is looking threatening in most of the games, but a lack of support is making his efforts futile. He would like to change the course of the season for his club by continuing his form, and Friday’s game should not be an exception. If Javi is able to connect well with the likes of Roy Krishna and Sunil Chhetri, then it will be a cause of worry for Constantine.

Did You Know?

  • East Bengal defeated Bengaluru FC in the first-leg fixture between the two sides at Bengaluru.
  • Cleiton Silva of East Bengal is a former Bengaluru FC player who played for the club between 2020 and 2022.
  • Cleiton, despite being a BFC player for two seasons, played his first match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in the last game between the two sides (due to Covid-19 protocols).
  • East Bengal and Bengaluru FC are old I-League foes whose rivalry dates back to 2013.

Telecast

The match between East Bengal and Bengaluru FC will take place at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, on December 30th (Friday). The kick-off time is 7:30 pm IST. The game will be telecasted live on the Star Sports Network. Disney+HotStar and JioTV will also stream the match.

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