Both ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal will go into the game undefeated, having won and drawn their season openers respectively.

The new campaign of the Indian Super League (ISL) has kicked off in some fashion. With 17 goals already being scored across the first four matches, one can expect similar scorelines in the days to come. All eyes will be on the upcoming Kolkata Derby between heavyweights ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal. Perhaps the biggest match in Indian football, the participants of the fixture are in very different places.

While Antonio Habas-led ATKMB has started their season with a convincing win over the Kerala Blasters, Manolo Diaz’s Red and Gold Brigade could only muster a point against Jamshedpur FC.

Both the Spaniards will be looking to outsmart one another with the help of their players and tactics. On that note, here are a few things to look forward to in the upcoming ‘Kolkata Derby’.

5. Derby debut for Diaz

Manuel Manolo Diaz
Diaz is new to Indian football and the Kolkata Derby may add pressure on him (Courtesy- SCEB Media)

Having over 20 years of experience as a coach, Spaniard Manolo Diaz has now found himself amidst the Indian footballing milieu. The team’s first fixture against Owen Coyle’s men was his debut in India’s top division, but he would have wanted a much better start to life here. Nevertheless, a big challenge in the form of the derby awaits him in only his second game in-charge.

Pitted against a far more experienced coach in Habas, he will have to do his research before fielding his team against ATK Mohun Bagan. Despite the absence of fans, Diaz will surely feel the history and pressure on his derby debut.

4. Indian players take centre stage

With the new ISL regulations that allow only four foreign players to be on the pitch, it will certainly allow the host of talented Indians to shine. Both sides have a good mix of senior as well as budding players, who can make a difference for their respective teams. Habas has the liberty to choose from experienced players like Prabir Das, Subhasish Bose and Manvir Singh. One notable name in the Green and Maroon camp is Liston Colaco. The 23-year old youngster netted his team’s fourth goal in their 4-2 win over Kerala Blasters.

On the other side of the rivalry, East Bengal added quite a few Indian players to their squad over the transfer window. This includes their captain and last season’s Golden Glove winner Arindam Bhattacharya. Midfielders W. Angousana and Sourav Das performed quite well in their match against Jamshedpur, but it remains to be seen if they will be able to hold their own against players like Hugo Boumous. Talents like Amarjit Singh and Jackichand Singh could also get their first starts of the season in the Kolkata Derby.

3. East Bengal looking to get their first win against arch-rivals in the ISL

Clinching all three points for the first time in the season and that too against your nemesis would do a lot for East Bengal’s nascent team. Still fresh from all the restructuring, the club are trying to let bygones be bygones and have a fresh start.

Their new coach Manolo Diaz was brought in to do precisely that. It would be a perfect way to thank the fans, if they come out victorious from the ensuing battle that is the derby.

2. Will Habas continue with Manvir Singh & Liston Colaco as wing-backs?

Manvir Singh, who has regularly impressed as a forward, was surprisingly played at right-wing-back against Kerala Blasters (Courtesy- ISL Media)

Antonio Habas is known for his defensive strategies, for which he has received flak as well. Despite being a defence-minded team, the coach gets the result at the end of the 90 minutes. A major feature of his style of play his usage of wing-backs. He demands tracking back whenever not in possession.

We saw Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco perform the role of these wing-backs while supporting the sole striker upfront in Roy Krishna. Others like Pritam Kotal and Subasish Bose can play as wing-backs as well. We will have to wait and see which tried and tested formation he decides to go with during the Kolkata Derby.

1. Resolving the lack of creativity in East Bengal’s midfield

In the last game itself, we saw how Amir Dervisevic improved the midfield levels after coming on in the second half. Unfortunately, the Slovenian is the only player that can create chances for the likes of Daniel Chima and Antonio Perosevic. Most of the midfielders in the side, including new signing Darren Sidoel, are good in their defensive duties. If Diaz decides to start Dervisevic from the get-go, he will have to drop one of Franjo Prce and Tomislav Mrcela from the centre-back pairing, if Chima and Perosevic are to continue with their roles upfront.

Someone like Amarjit Singh in the middle of the park can be the change. With his skills and composure on the ball, he can be the link between the midfield and the forwards.

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