It will embark a fresh journey for Kolkata giants, Mohun Bagan, when they take on Aizawl FC in the 2017/18 Hero I-League.
Sankar Lal Chakraborty takes the reins of the team after previous head coach Sanjoy Sen put in his papers following a string of four winless games, ending in a 2-1 defeat to Chennai City FC – their first in over three seasons in a Hero I-League home game.
“We have to overcome the tough situation with hard work. If I don’t take this challenge now at this age, then I might not be able to forever. Tomorrow’s match is about making Mohun Bagan return to winning ways. There will be some changes. Everyone will get to see tomorrow. I cannot say much now”, he said in his first ever Hero I-League pre-match press conference as the Bagan boss.
He added, “My playing career was not so long. It ended not long after it started. When I was nineteen or twenty years old that time, there was an exuberance that was present. I felt that if I punched a brick wall, it will crack; now if I think of doing the same, I feel my hand will break so that is the difference.”
He praised the opposition as well. “The team that won the Hero I-League last year, the head coach Khalid Jamil and most players have left. But, it does not look like they have started from the scratch. I believe this team is even stronger than last years. So it will be tough for us.”
Hopes of a revival in fortunes will be brightened by new signing Cameron Watson who has been ruled fit to play on Sunday. The Australian national said, “I have come here to do my job. It does not change whichever club I play for. My role in the attack is to play the ball for the front players and obviously help the back four in defending.
“I am not going to do anything out of the ordinary or be something that I am not. I will play my game and stick to whatever the coach wants and try and get a positive result. I haven’t played a game in a couple of months. I have been training but training obviously is different from a competitive game. I am very happy that it is not too hot so it is going to play in my favour a little bit. I think I am excited. I hope I can complete the full game if I play from the start.
“It is not ideal circumstances to come into a club but that is football, it happens everywhere. I am not the first individual to experience this, certainly won’t be the last. But you have to take it all in your stride”, said the midfielder.
Languishing in the fifth spot, Mohun Bagan have ten points in their kitty – the same as Aizawl FC, but have played an extra two games as the Mizoram-based club play only their sixth game of the season on Sunday.
The Green and Maroons have won all their games at home against Aizawl FC in all competitions and never have scored less than three goals in each match. However, with Sony Norde sidelined and Aser Dipanda Dicka and Ansumana Kromah out of form, that run seems unlikely to continue.
For the title-holders, they will be looking to keep their winning streak intact as they have recovered well after losing 1-0 at home to Shillong Lajong by picking up two back-to-back victories. They return to the venue where they started their season with a 2-2 draw with current league leaders Kingfisher East Bengal and will be looking for a win or a repeat of the same against their city rivals.
“It is just another match and we are targeting three points. Our preparation is the same. I am least bothered about what the opposition do. There will always be pressure on clubs like Mohun Bagan and Kingfisher East Bengal. Even our team has pressure to perform as we are the champions”, said head coach Paulo Menezes on the eve of the game.
He further commented, “If Sony (Norde) does not play it is their headache, not mine. We cannot think of the other team and other players. If we have to think, we will think about the opposition collectively and not individual players.”
Their bouquet of foreigners has been instrumental this campaign so far. Leonce Dodoz and Yugo Kobayashi have been inspiring in attack while Masih Saighani has been solid at the back, Andrei Ionescu’s introduction in midfield has pushed club skipper Alfred Jaryan to the fringes.
Saighani, the Afghan defender said, “Mohun Bagan are a good team and have good players” as he aims to keep a clean-sheet against the Green and Maroons.
It will be interesting to see what kind of revenge the Mariners serve up after they lost the corresponding fixture in Aizawl last season, which signalled the end of title-hopes for the Kolkata club.
The kick-off is at 2 PM IST and it’ll be televised live on Star Sports 2/2 HD and streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.