When ATK Mohun Bagan take on SC East Bengal in the Kolkata Derby there will be a few individual battles between players that could define the game.
The duel between Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane often decided the result of a Manchester United-Arsenal encounter at the beginning of this century. Fierce to the core and “in your face” captains, both players were vocal, never shied away from the ball or a tackle and had an absolutely different attitude in key games. They turned into legends for their respective clubs and rightfully so.
In India, there’s just one encounter (arguably) that could give cult status to a player for outstanding performances in a game. It’s the Kolkata Derby between ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal that now features the mast of the Indian Super League as its organizer. From Do Dong-hyun to Jose Ramirez Barreto to Odafa Okolie to Majid Beshkar, several players from beyond Indian shores have lit up stadiums with their heroics. Indian stalwarts such as Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and IM Vijayan also feature on that list.
Who’ll join it next?
In this special piece, we take a look at a few key battles that could decide who wins the second Kolkata Derby of the season that takes place on 19th February, after ATK Mohun Bagan won the first 2-0 in SC East Bengal’s debut game in the league.
3. Roy Krishna Vs Raju Gaikwad
You expected this to be on the list, didn’t you? With the arrival of Marcelinho from Odisha FC, Krishna has drifted a little to the left, in his more favoured position. The Fijian forward is in red hot form, scoring 13 times in 17 games for the defending champions. Will Raju Gaikwad be able to stop him? Roy is smart enough to attack the Indian instead of Daniel Fox, a more seasoned campaigner.
It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Krishna went on a lull earlier this season, finding the net just once in six encounters. He also needs a supply line and isn’t the best dribbler himself. Gaikwad’s arrival, on the other hand, has made things more resolute and settled in East Bengal’s backline. The former Mohun Bagan defender has the tactical nous to stop the current top scorer in the league. Gaikwad, however, will need a little help from Sarthak Golui and Fox.
2. Matti Steinmann Vs Lenny Rodrigues
Lenny is clearly one of India’s best exponents of passing the football. Since his arrival from FC Goa, he has hardly put a foot wrong in controlling the tempo and proceedings for ATKMB. Some even say he has the passing versatility of Borja Fernandez, a player Antonio Habas liked a lot. Lenny might not be as physically dominant, but he isn’t a pushover either.
Against him is one of the best passers in the league, Matti Steinmann from Germany. Steinmann has been the thread that holds SC East Bengal together and more often than not, he has started things for the Red and Gold. He is the top scorer for the new entrants and is enjoying linking up with his attacking teammates regularly.
Both Steinmann and Rodrigues will need to keep an eye on each other. According space to anyone between these two could be risky for the opposition. For neutrals, here is a midfield battle that’s likely to be delicious!
1. Bright Enobakhare Vs Carl McHugh
It was worth your wait, SCEB fans! Yes, Bright Enobakhare features on this list. He has been the club’s biggest threat going forward and some of his moves have been world-class. Remember that touch and go, swivel and turn against FC Goa that left everyone on the ground and the ball in the back of the net? Bright has shown bright signs of being capable of pulling out top-draw skills regularly and Carl McHugh will have a hugely important role to keep SCEB’s No. 10 in check.
McHugh is no pushover – he commanded the midfield brilliantly against the arch-rivals in the first game, winning the Man of the Match award. McHugh is particularly disciplined while defending, and finds smart pockets of space in between the forward and midfield lines of the opposition to circulate the ball. Thus, Bright will have a tough time dealing with him and finding space in the Mohun Bagan half.
The game might be between two teams that sit in opposite halves of the table, but when it comes to rivalries, statistics and points don’t make much of a difference. All it takes is passion, pride, brevity and good footballing ability.