The Red & Golds are making a fresh start under new management.
East Bengal head into their third season in the Indian Super League (ISL) with dozens of expectations and a burden of failures in the last two years. After two forgettable seasons, East Bengal are now eager to make a strong comeback with a new investor, new coach and new foreigners in place.
This year, former Indian National team manager Stephen Constantine took charge of East Bengal. It is the first time that the Englishman is coaching an Indian Club. The club have undergone yet another summer overhaul. However, this time the Red & Golds have bolstered their squad with the signings of some top foreigners in Ivan Gonzalez, Cleiton Silva and Alex Lima.
The new management has also signed promising domestic prospects like Mobashir Rahman, Aniket Jadhav, VP Suhair and Lalchungnunga. With these additions, East Bengal have signaled its intent to bounce back from the disaster of the past two seasons in India’s top-flight league.
Let’s take a look at how the Red and Gold brigade might line up in the upcoming 2022-23 ISL season. Here is how East Bengal’s predicted XI looks for the next season.
Goalkeeper: Kamaljit Singh
Kamaljit was one of the standout players of FC Pune City in the 2018-19 season, making 59 saves. That performance earned him national call-ups for the Intercontinental Cup 2019 and King’s Cup. Last season was not fruitful for Kamaljit, who made 34 saves and conceded 30 goals in 12 appearances. The 26-year-old custodian joined the Red and Gold brigade after East Bengal activated the release clause in his contract with Odisha FC.
Right Back: Mohammad Rakip
After his ISL debut with Kerala Blasters in the 2018-19 season, Rakip joined the Islanders and made nine appearances in their title-winning campaign. He was selected in the preliminary squad for the U-17 FIFA World Cup in 2017. Rakip is the first-ever U-17 player to sign for an ISL club. He joined East Bengal from Mumbai on a free transfer. Rakip’s signing will be significant in the East Bengal squad.
Centre Back: Ivan Gonzalez
Ivan Gonzalez played a crucial role for FC Goa as they finished third in the AFC Champions League. After joining the Gaurs ahead of 2020-21 season, the experienced Spanish center-back showed his brilliant abilities and helped them reach the semi-finals in his debut season.
Ivan became the first overseas recruit for East Bengal ahead of the upcoming season, signing a two-year deal. The Spaniard would be entrusted to provide the much-needed defensive solidity in the Red and Gold brigade squad.
Centre Back: Lalchungnunga
The former Sreenidhi Deccan FC and Aizawl FC defender has joined East Bengal for the upcoming season on a loan deal from Sreenidhi Deccan. The versatile defender has previously plied his trade as a center-back.
The Mizoram defender made 17 appearances for Sreenidhi Deccan and was named in the I-League all-star squad of 2021-22. This will be the debut season in ISL for the young and promising Lalchungnunga.
Left Back: Jerry Lalrinzuala
The youngest goal-scorer for Chennaiyin FC and emerging player of ISL in 2016, Jerry got an opportunity to train with FC Metz in France after representing the AIFF Elite Academy earlier in his career. The defender has parted ways with two-time champions Chennaiyin, after spending six seasons with them.
His consistent performances earned him an irreplaceable place in the hearts of Marina Machans’ followers. Last season, the defender showed yet again why he’s indispensable, making 56 tackles, 20 blocks and providing two assists in 20 appearances. Now it’s time for Jerry to win the millions of East Bengals supporters’ hearts.
Centre Midfielder: Alex Lima
The 33-year-old Brazilian midfielder made 41 appearances with ISL side Jamshedpur FC and played a crucial role in winning the League Winners Shield last season. In his two seasons with the Red Miners, Alex provided four assists and scored a goal.
The signing of a box-to-box midfielder who is well known for his ability to contribute in both attack and defence is the signing East Bengal needed desperately.
Center Midfielder: Souvik Chakrabarti
A talented product of Mohun Bagan Academy, Souvik is very much a Mariner at heart. After spending three memorable seasons with Hyderabad and winning the championship with the Nizams last season, he has returned to Kolkata and joined East Bengal on a three-year deal.
Souvik started his football career with Mohun Bagan Academy when he was only 15. After representing Durand Cup winners Air India in 2012 and United Sporting later, he came back to Mohun Bagan and won the I-league and Fed Cup with them. Souvik will now be eager to win the ISL championship with his new team East Bengal.
Right Wing: Sumeet Passi
Sumeet was a part of the Indian national team under coach Stephen Constantine, scoring three goals. The former RoundGlass Punjab FC footballer is flexible and can play as a left-back, center-back, right-back, and even in central midfield. He was a part of the national team in the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Passi will be playing under the coaching of Stephen Constantine again. Sumeet signed a two-year contract with the club which will keep him with the Red and Gold brigade squad till 2024.
Attacking Midfielder: Jordan O’Doherty
The former Newcastle Jets midfielder would be crucial for orchestrating play in the middle of the park with his creativity. The 24-year-old Australian plays the role of a central midfielder with an attacking mentality. He can also be used as a No. 10. Jordan O’Doherty can be crucial in Constantine’s infamous long-ball strategy and will help the team play a more attacking style of football.
Left Wing: Suhair VP
The Palakkad-born striker won the I-League title with Mohun Bagan under Kibu Vicuna in 2020. He scored a hat-trick and some wonderful goals for East Bengal in Calcutta Football League in 2017. He joined ISL side NorthEast United ahead of the 2020-21 season.
With the Highlanders, he performed exceptionally well in the last two seasons. The 30-year-old Indian striker decided to come back to East Bengal for a huge amount. He has signed a three-year deal that will keep him in the Red and Gold brigade squad till 2025.
Striker: Cleiton Silva
The diminutive Brazilian had a terrific season at Bengaluru FC where he scored 16 goals and provided seven assists in 37 appearances over the last two seasons. The Brazilian attacker has superb one-touch playing ability and can set up for other attackers as well.
He was the top scorer in the Thai Premier League two times (in 2012 and 2016). Cleiton was also awarded Thai Premier League player of the month and Striker of the Year in 2013 for being the first overseas footballer to score over 100 goals in the league. Now, with his quality and ability, the former Bengaluru striker will be pivotal for the Kolkata club.