Mohun Bagan can only aim for three points and no less when they host Minerva Punjab FC in their penultimate 2017/18 Hero I-League home game.
The Green and Maroons are high on confidence after finally winning and scoring in a game from open play after four matches. Head coach Sankar Lal Chakraborty, who is only a game old in his new position as the full-time chief coach will be looking to lift his side from mid-table incongruity.
“We are trying hard to do well but unfortunately that’s not happening. No one wants to lose or draw but it happens. The big teams, who are title contenders, will never want this bad patch to continue. We have promised to come back soon. The last match we had won but we have to improve”, said Chakraborty.
With league leaders Kingfisher East Bengal dropping points the other night, Mohun Bagan can ill-afford to take any chances against Minerva Punjab FC, who themselves looked like the runaway favourites for the title when the season began.
Sony Norde is still nursing his injury but the focus will be on Cameron Watson who played the full ninety minutes on Sunday against Aizawl FC in a 2-0 win but looked well short of full match fitness.
Aser Dipanda Dicka scored but questions marks have been pointed on Ansumana Kromah’s capability to complement the Cameroonian. However, the Liberian suggests that he prefers a more forward role than he is being given at the club.
Watson stated, “In the last game, the second half was more open. After the first 20 minutes of the first half, all the boys started to play better. I have just joined the side, slowly getting along with the other players. We got the result last game and we have to continue that result. We have to get three points every week. It’s nothing to get excited about.”
“Our whole team, in general, is very good. It took us 15-20 minutes to settle but then we played well. Raynier (Fernandes) in the middle with me was exceptional. He had a very good game, very energetic, very smart player,” the Australian added.
On the other hand, Minerva Punjab FC replied well with a slender 1-0 victory over at Gokulam Kerala FC over the weekend after they lost their first game of the season at the home of the defending champions Aizawl FC prior.
Having played a game less and three points ahead, the Warriors from Ludhiana will be hoping for a repeat of the 1-1 draw in the corresponding fixture – coincidentally the season opener, if not for a win at least.
“We have immense respect for Mohun Bagan. They are an old club and at home, they are a good side. They have a very good attack and we have to be cautious. Our target is to win the league. We want to be champions. It is a long journey. We have to avoid bad results,” Khogen Singh, the head coach said on the eve of the game.
The Punjab-based team who are only in their second season of top-flight football have assembled healthy foreign signings, led by the enigmatic Chencho Gyeltshen who has been a menace down the left flank.
Sony Norde would have been Chencho’s counterpart in the game but his unavailability is not what Minerva Punjab are banking upon says midfielder Souvik Das. “We don’t go by individuals. We have to continue our good work. We are playing good football and hoping to keep our place as title contenders. We are fighting for each match. Doesn’t matter which team, all that matters is three points.”
Seven different players have scored for Minerva with three of them being Indians and Khogen Singh could not be more elated. “There is no disparity between the foreign and Indian players in our club. There is no bias with the Indian players. They train hard, they are good and have been scoring,” he expressed.
The onus will be on the Mariners to sign off with a win at the venue until the next time, which is the much awaited Kolkata derby. For Minerva, the chance to leapfrog Kingfisher East Bengal is satiating but have to be careful at the lion’s den.
Kick-off is at 5:30 PM with the match to be broadcast on Star Sports 2/2 HD. Hotstar and Jio TV will stream the game live.