The Punjab outfit will be playing their first home game…
I-League newcomers, Minerva Punjab FC are set to host high-flying East Bengal FC in their fifth fixture this season, which is also their first home game. Minerva, who were promoted to the top flight this season have performed poorly in all four league games losing each of them. The Punjab-based side are currently struggling for goals and sit at the bottom of the table. However, Minerva are expected to put up a fight in hope of clinching three points off of East Bengal FC on Saturday.
East Bengal, on the other hand, have had a successful transfer window and have been regarded as one of the title contenders since the season began. The Kolkata-based side have one draw and three wins in their four I-League games this season and they defeated the reigning champions Bengaluru FC in their last game at Barasat Stadium. Now that the Red and Gold brigade sit in the second place in the I-League table, they will be looking forward to challenging their arch-rivals and the table toppers Mohun Bagan for the top place in the league standings with a win on Sunday.
On the brighter side, Minerva doe not have any injuries among their ranks. However, few key players such as Germanpreet Singh, Nuruddin, S.Singh, Vinit Rai and Manandeep Singh have picked up yellow cards in their previous fixtures. The first choice goalkeeper, Ravi Kumar, who has recently come back from injury is also doubtful against the Kolkata giants.
Apart from veteran defender Arnab Mondal who is out with a long term injury, East Bengal will also miss winger Bikash Jairu and Cavin Lobo who are also out with knocks. Key midfielder Mehtab Hossain is also doubtful against the hosts Minerva Punjab FC. Other key players such as Lalrindika Ralte, Nikhil Poojary, Narayan Das and Rahul Bheke are all carrying a yellow card each and are expected to be used wisely. East Bengal will miss Romeo Fernandes as the winger did not travel with the team.
Head to Head
This will be the first game between the two teams.
Man to Watch
Anirudh Thapa-Minerva Punjab: In all the defeats in Minerva Punjab’s I-League debut season one youngster who has shone brightly whenever he got a chance is Anirudh Thapa. The 19-year old Indian of Nepali descent. who has been starting as a left midfielder for the Blues, has shown glimpses of his true potential against Chennai City and Shillong Lajong FC as well as top flight contenders Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC this season. The AIFF Elite Academy and FC Metz Academy product who has also played for ISL franchise Chennaiyin FC has been an absolute bargain for Surinder Singh’s men in this I-League and is expected to turn up the show against East Bengal tomorrow.
Robin Singh-East Bengal: The former East Bengal and Bengaluru FC player who was re-signed by the Kolkata giants for the second time earlier in this month came on as a substitution for East Bengal against Bengaluru FC in their previous match. Singh later scored the winning goal of the match and was praised by both home and away Head Coaches for his performance against Bengaluru FC. The 26-year old who has an eye for the goal has also been praised for his positional sense and movements both on and off the ball as he would have scored a hattrick against Bengaluru FC if not for the heroics for the away goalkeeper Amrinder Singh. With Ildar Amirov misfiring, Singh is expected to step it up a notch and score goals when possible for the away side.
Minerva Punjab FC (4-3-3): Arshdeep, Gurjinder, Loveday, A.Singh, K.Singh, Raja, G.Singh, Thapa, Manandeep, Filatov, Amobi.
East Bengal FC (4-1-3-2): Rehenesh (GK), Bheke, Gurwinder, Bukenya, Das, Borges, Ralte, Wedson, Poojary, Plaza, Robin Singh.
The game will broadcast live on Ten 2 at 04:30 pm IST.