The visitors are on a 5-game unbeaten streak in the league.
After handing table-toppers Chennai City their first defeat of the season, Real Kashmir now head to Kolkata to lock horns against city giants East Bengal. The debutants have been somewhat unpredictable this campaign, which will certainly have an effect in their game against the Red and Gold Brigade on Friday evening.
Ahead of the game, both the head coaches met the press in a conference on Thursday morning in Kolkata. Here are the excerpts:
Alejandro Menendez (East Bengal)
The Spaniard isn’t underestimating his next opponents as he began, “It will be a tough match and we have to be attentive. We are hoping to win tomorrow. We don’t want to lose tomorrow’s game.”
“We have to fight for 90 minutes. We are confident of winning tomorrow. They defeated Chennai City, so they are a tough team. But, we have to win,” Menendez added.
The Snow Leopards have often ridden on the brilliance of a particular player to register a win this season. When asked if the Spaniard plans to focus on any particular visiting player he said, “We are not looking at any individual player. It’s a team effort, so we won’t be focusing on any particular player.”
“We have to be very formative in our defence. We are working hard on that. But, I am confident our defenders will deal with their strikers,” he added.
“Real Kashmir are a new team and a good team. We like to win all the matches whether home or away. So, we will be going for full points tomorrow,” the 52-year-old quipped.
East Bengal have recently acquired the services of former Bengaluru FC midfielder Toni Dovale, who replaced Mahmoud Al-Amnah in the squad. When asked about the newest addition Menendez said, “(I) don’t want to speak about the new player.”
“It has been a great journey for me so far. We are trying our best in training to improve,” he concluded.
David Robertson (Real Kashmir)
Like his counterpart, the Scot also seemed concerned about his next opponents as he went on to say, “We have to be realistic, we are a new team. We have been playing good football.”
“It is always going to be tough, (but) we did well against Chennai. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan (are the) biggest clubs of India. The pressure is on them to get a result. We do not have any pressure. If we win it will be a bonus for us,” he added.
Real Kashmir will be one of the few clubs affected by Star Sports’ recent decision to cut back on their I-League coverage for the rest of the season. When asked about it he answered, “After tomorrow we would have pretty much played against all the teams. So, we know all the teams. The preparation will be pretty much same, so telecast of matches won’t affect that. But, it is definitely disappointing from the clubs’ and league’s and people of India’s point of view that there will be no telecast.”
Robertson seemed enthusiastic while talking about the quality of the players in the Valley as he said, “Playing in the I-League puts Kashmir on the footballing map. Till now it was (Mehrajuddin) Wadoo and Ishfaq (Ahmed). Last year, we won Division 2 with Kashmiri players. That shows how talented the local players are.”
The Real Kashmir boss also praised East Bengal frontman Jobby Justin in the conference. “Jobby Justin in my opinion is the best striker in the league. They are a big team and we expect a tough game tomorrow,” he told the press.
“Mason had food poisoning in the last game. We have to check if he is fit tomorrow. Mason is a big miss definitely, but I’m happy with the players who played the last game,” he signed off.
Apart from striker Enrique Esqueda, the Red and Gold Brigade do not have any major injury concerns right now. However, Bali Gagandeep will miss out on the game against the Snow Leopards on Friday after picking up a red card in the last game.
The visitors also do not have any major injury concerns. However, Mason Robertson is a doubt for the game.
East Bengal– Dagar (GK), Acosta, Borja, Colado, Aidara, Danmawia, Lalrindika, Jobby, Samad, Brandon, Manoj
Real Kashmir– Bilal (GK), Ravanan, Hamad, Loveday, Ganie, Krizo, Danish, Bazie, Surchandra, Tetteh, Thapa
The game kicks-off at 5 PM IST on Friday at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. The game will be telecast live on Star Sports 3 and can also be streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.