Both teams are in desperate need of a win in the first big clash of the top flight season.
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan face-off in their biggest match of the season so far in the Kolkata Derby on Sunday. With both sides struggling to maintain consistency this campaign, it’s a do-or-die match for both teams’ I-League title race. The pressure is on both head coaches Alejandro Menendez and Sankarlal Chakraborty to produce a positive result and a derby win can do great for both their jobs. The managers addressed the media before the hotly-contested match tomorrow.
Alejandro Menendez (East Bengal)
Menendez expressed regret about star man Enrique Esqueda’s injury, but had assuring words on Jamie Santos’ involvement in the match. “The team is training very well and is high in confidence after the last win. The loss of Enrique is bad for us, but now we have to think about the players that can play. Santos will play some minutes in the game.”
Menendez also spoke on the importance of the result in the I-League title race and said, “This match is very important for everyone. For the supporters, for us and also in terms of challenging for the championship. We will try to win to give the fans some joy. We will give our all for them.”
The tactician also spoke about the urgency needed to win a match of this stature. He explained, “This type of matches in terms of emotion and for the heart of the team. Maybe tomorrow we will have a better spirit in the match and it is very difficult for both teams to win this type of matches.”
East Bengal will be missing out on ace striker Enrique Esqueda against Mohun Bagan to a rib injury
He also had some bright remarks on the stature of the Kolkata Derby and spoke on its importance. “This derby is similar to the El Clasico or the Madrid Derby. It’s very important for the people here. For one week, people have been talking about the match and preparing for it. So, in terms of importance, it is similar to any other big derby.”
Menendez also said that he feels Mohun Bagan’s attacking talent is their biggest strength. He also had some kind words for his opposite number Sankarlal Chakraborty and thanked him for his own good remarks. “I’m very satisfied if he thinks like that about me. He’s a really good coach and knows about the football here. One person who knows about football and thinks well about me is satisfactory.”
Finally, when asked about the absence of Esqueda being a problem for him he said, “Enrique is a big player for us. It’s a problem for us if he doesn’t play. But now, we’re thinking about the situation and not the problem of him not playing.”
Sankarlal Chakraborty (Mohun Bagan)
Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty answered the media’s questions first. Sony Norde is set to miss the derby after picking up a hamstring injury in training. On his situation the coach explained, “No, he isn’t in our squad. The report given by the doctor doesn’t allow him to play tomorrow. I’m not only thinking about the future, but according to the doctor’s orders of not playing him, we can’t play him for two weeks.”
Sony Norde will be missing his first Kolkata Derby since coming back to Mohun Bagan on Sunday
When asked about how huge his miss will be he said, “Sony is a fantastic player. But without him, we’ve won matches as well. The way we’ve handled the team, even Pintu Mahata gets the same respect as Sony. But in terms of quality, Sony is an incredible player. Not only him, but Pintu and Sukhdev (Singh) are also big losses.”
Giving his thoughts on East Bengal he said, “They’re a great team. A very disciplined team. I don’t think I can say about the coach as he is coming from the Real Madrid academy. We dream about Real Madrid and Barcelona. We don’t know much about the new player playing tomorrow. We need to think there’s a surprise there.”
Chakraborty also spoke on whether the position of both teams in the I-League title race reflects the lacklustre nature of West Bengal football and said, “I don’t think the positions of both teams reflect the situation of West Bengal football now. In terms of performance, we could’ve improved even more. But, somehow that hasn’t clicked yet. We should’ve upped our performance. I hope we can turn it up a gear tomorrow.”
Chakraborty didn’t seem agitated when asked to opine on Menendez’ secretive tactics in conducting closed door training before the match. He said, “He’s come from a huge club in the world. We’ve learnt our football from them only. He’s far ahead in terms of knowing the game than us. In terms of closed door training, mainly set-pieces are given many variations. Their strategy shouldn’t change much. It’s to keep the new player a secret or improving their set-piece tactics.”
Speaking on whether the gap of 15 days has hindered their improvement in the season Sankarlal said, “There are two ways to this. The small injuries have been recovered. But, because of this gap, some problems could arise. That can be understood. The players are able mentally and practice has been scheduled to keep them physically good as well.”
Finally, speaking about whether there’s pressure going into the match in 8th position he said, “There’s no pressure right now. If I take up the pressure, then what will I explain to the players? The players have understood the situation. They know where we’ll go after winning or losing tomorrow.”
Enrique Esqueda is out of the match after suffering a back injury in their win against Gokulam Kerala. Apart from that, East Bengal go in the derby with a fully fit squad.
Sony Norde is unavailable for the high voltage game whereas youngster Pintu Mahata is doubtful for the derby. Norde picked up a knock in the training session a few days ago, which might not allow him to start.
Dagar (GK), Chullova, Salam Ranjan, Borja, Manoj, Aidara, Lalrindika, Danmawia, Santos, Brandon, Justin.
Shilton (GK), Bagui, Kingsley, Kimkima, Ambekar, Faiaz, Kinowaki, Das, Omar, Kisekka, Dicka.
The match will be played at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday at 5 PM. It will be telecasted on Star Sports 3 and be available to stream on Hotstar and JioTV.