With East Bengal and Mohun Bagan set to face off in the second Kolkata Derby of the season, Khel Now looks at the tactical approach of both teams going into this pivotal tussle…
The much anticipated Kolkata Derby is set to take place on 9th April, when the two giants of Indian football take center stage at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri. Both teams are still in the hunt for the prestigious I-League title this season and with only four games remaining, nothing but three points will be what they would be looking for.
The hosts, Mohun Bagan, are in red hot form after two dominating wins in the span of a week against formidable opponents, while East Bengal have stuttered in their hunt for the title with poor performances in the last few weeks before the international break. The Mariners have put their feet on the peddle at the right end of the season and their impressive recent form makes them the favorites heading into this hotly contested derby.
The most recent Kolkata Derby which took place in February was a bland affair as the game ended in a goalless draw with scarce opportunities. The two teams are separated by only three points currently, Bagan having played a game less. The Green-and-Maroons will look to close the gap on league leaders Aizawl FC and overthrow their bitter rivals from second position. This win could usher the Mariners into going all the way this season, as they are yet to play the leaders at their stadium and the boost they could get from a win could be vital for them in the long run.
Mohun Bagan are likely to miss the services of promising winger Kean Lewis and midfielder Pronay Halder, players who didn’t feature in their AFC Cup Win over Abahani Limited Dhaka and aren’t likely to feature in the derby either. Nonetheless, with their red hot form and star players clicking at the right time, the Mariners will be confident going into this match and will hope to get the bragging rights with a victory against their bitter rivals.
FORMATIONS AND TACTICS
East Bengal’s main strength lies in their cohesive football. The team is not dependent on one man for delivering the goods in front of the opposition goal as Singh, Payne and Plaza have all been on the goalscoring charts in recent times. The fact that East Bengal play a smooth inter-changing role at the top helps them baffle opposition defenders and has seen them control the tempo of the game in the attacking third.
East Bengal’s strength in the backline is the towering presence of Bukenya. The Ugandan defender has been one of the best players in the league, bailing out the Reds-and-Golds every time they’ve been in trouble at the back and even up front, with some key goals. Bukenya will be the key man for the visitors as Sanjoy Sen would be looking to bomb the East Bengal box with Balwant Singh and Daryl Duffy.
In the centre, Hossain’s distribution holds the key for East Bengal. The midfielder is one of the most experienced men in Indian football and knows how to win games. He will be key to thwarting the attacking intent of opposition captain Yusa, who tends to drift into the centre while attacking. Ralte will be another midfielder who will hold the key to East Bengal’s link-up play from defence to attack. The captain will want to go down the tunnel a happy man after two disappointing 2-1 defeats in their last two games to Churchill Brothers and Chennai City FC.
Mohun Bagan have remained a terrorizing attacking force this season in the I-League, as they made some superb signings before the season had started and now have a lot of talented personnel in their team. The Mariners’ greatest strength has to be Haitian winger Norde, who has been absolutely amazing ever since coming back from the international break.
His chemistry with Bagan’s relentless, intelligent captain Yusa has been deadly over the past few weeks. Mohun Bagan also have a lot of choices in their striking department, which has helped their chances in the past weeks. With the recent good form of Balwant Singh and Duffy, they look as the Mariners’ greatest threats inside the box right now.
Apart from that, Bagan also have a solid defender with Edathodika, whose presence can be felt every time he’s on the field and one of the best goalkeepers in Indian football in Debjit Majumder, who’ll want to keep another clean sheet for himself against the rivals at the weekend after not being called up to the Indian national team squad.
East Bengal have shown a tendency to switch off at critical junctures this season, which is their main weakness. Also, their link-up play from defence to attack has been painfully slow and no player except Ralte has shown enough promise and creative intelligence to take the ball into the opposition half.
In the absence of Mondal, East Bengal’s defence could easily be attacked with speed as replacement Gurwinder Singh is known for his complacency against pace and Ali for his abysmal defensive maturity and discipline. Rafique can be a liability against physically imposing opposition and Trevor Morgan will need to organize his squad accordingly.
Up ahead, Robin Singh’s indifferent form is something East Bengal will be hoping to end. The former Bengaluru FC striker has blown hot and cold, scoring key goals against his former club but has not been visible in most of the games he has been heavily marked. The burly striker will be hoping to shrug off the rust and convert the chances that come his way.
Mohun Bagan’s weaknesses have been sugar-coated this season due to their amazing attacking display, but they have some problems in their team they still need to pay attention to. The Mariners might have the best attack in the league, but on some days, their defense is still unconvincing and wobbly, as the inexperience of their full-backs has cost them games in the past few months.
Kotal might be a solid attacker but isn’t fully convincing defensively while Bose is extremely rash for his own good and can give away many free-kicks when he isn’t kept under control. His aggressive side has seen him get booked almost every other match and his attacking side can be the vulnerable area for Bagan with East Bengal having some sizzling wingers of their own.
Chakraborty has also been disappointing in the past few games from a defensive standpoint as the Mariners’ vulnerable full-backs and limited defenders are a glaring weakness which can be exposed on an off day.
|East Bengal Key Player: Willis Plaza
||Mohun Bagan Key Player: Sony Norde
If East Bengal want to remain in the fray for the I-league title this season, they will hope that Trinidad & Tobago striker Plaza is in ominous mood on Sunday. The striker who featured for his country in the international break will be the man Trevor Morgan will be looking at for both creating and finishing chances. Plaza has an innate ability to run past defenders and his height and skillset gives him the added advantage of making a mockery of any defense on his day. With the kind of fiery speed Plaza possesses, Morgan will be a happy man if he’s in the mood.
The title chase has not been as East Bengal had hoped this season and Plaza will play a key role in reviving their title bid by winning the derby.
Sony Norde has been the force which has kept Mohun Bagan marching on towards the I-League title this season, as the majestic winger has been especially amazing after coming back from the international break. He gave two assists in the Mariners’ trashing of Bengaluru FC last weekend, one in which he sped past almost the entire length of his half to provide for captain Yusa to put the finishing touches.
Norde was amazing in the midweek AFC Cup clash against Abahani Limited where he assisted a goal and deservedly scored one later on. Norde’s amazing speed and dribbling skills inside the box are enough to terrorize any defense and he’ll be the main man for the Mariners in this important derby clash.