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Top 5 reasons to watch the Kolkata Derby this Sunday


Like every meeting between these two teams, Sunday's encounter has its own sub-plots which make it a must watch.

As the second Kolkata Derby of the I-League season between giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan nears,  the temperature is sure to rise amidst the January cold. The game is always emotionally high octane and football fans don’t need an excuse to engage themselves in the eagerly anticipated clash of the two eternal rivals.

But, the match set to take place this Sunday has its own unique sub-plots. So, here's why you should watch this latest edition of the Kolkata Derby.

Est Bengal's title quest

With the exit of Bengaluru FC and almost all of the prominent players choosing the cash-rich Indian Super League to ply their trade in, East Bengal and Mohan Bagan were thought to be the only contenders for the title before the start of the league.

East Bengal were also the most active in the transfer market as they bagged the cream of the crop from the previous season's champions Aizawl FC in the form of midfield maestro Mahmoud Al Amnah and Laldanmawia, defender Lalramchullova and forward Brandon Vanlalremdika along with their title-winning coach Khalid Jamil. After a promising start to the season a series of stale performances resulting in draws have now put them in the second position, three points behind surprise leaders Minerva Punjab who have a game in hand.

Having a collection of all the national trophies in their cabinet East Bengal have never won the premium national league of the country after it was restructured as the I-league. This season is perhaps their best shot at the title and a win in the derby may well become a turning point in their quest for glory.

Chakraborty's chance to stake his claim

It will be Sankarlal Chakraborty’s first ever derby with him in sole charge of the team after Sanjoy Sen’s departure. Though he was in-charge of the team in the Calcutta Football League which had a derby as well, the I-league is a different ball game with stakes much higher. Chakraborty has a point to prove after the club officials showed their confidence and trust in him by putting him in charge.

After three years of assisting Sanjoy Sen, this is Chakraborty's chance to come out of the shadows of his predecessor. As a character, he's the opposite of Sen and likes to operate silently without much hype. It will be interesting to see how he prepares his team after the poor show at home against Minerva Punjab. Also, what formation and players he fields will be crucial for the Green and Maroon Brigade.

Sanjoy Sen left the sinking ship that is Mohun Bagan in this season

Yusa goes up against his former club

Katsumi Yusa donning the Red and Gold jersey this season broke many Mohun Bagan fans' hearts. He was instrumental in Bagan's glory seasons when they won the I-league and Federation Cup. His partnership with Sony Norde was the key to the Green and Marron Brigade’s success.

But, this season, Katsumi is in the rival camp and none can question his commitment and eagerness to win. He has been East Bengal’s constant bright side among the lacklustre performances by his teammates. His relentless runs down the flanks have time and again helped the team to snatch an unlikely victory or an undeserved point from games they were poised to lose.

It will be vital how Bagan tackle the hard-working Japanese in the middle of the park and thwart his runs down the flanks as he can and would operate on both the wings to cause panic in the already nervy Bagan defence.


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The influential Yuta Kinowaki

Those who watched the first derby of the season would know what impact Yuta Kinowaki had on the game. The midfielder who played his first match in Bagan colours, not only did lit up the grand stage with his composure but also neutralized the impact of Al Amnah, East Bengal’s midfield general. He was a livewire in the middle of the park, as a result of which Katsumi and Al Amnah found little space to maneuver.

Playing much deeper in the midfield compared to his usual #8 role Yuta announced his arrival in Kolkata football. But Bagan’s honeymoon phase was short-lived as he got severely injured in the very next match dislocating his shoulder, playing on the infamous artificial turf at Barasat Stadium against Churchill Brothers.

The void left by Yuta was never filled as Bagan lost their footing in the midfield and in the race for the title. With Yuta joining his Bagan teammates in practice it remains to see if he is 100% fit to take to the field in the derby day again.

Can Jamil learn from his first Derby?

East Bengal roped in Khalid Jamil, last year’s title winning coach from Aizawl with the sole purpose of claiming the much coveted I-League trophy. Jamil, who proved his mettle winning the league in his maiden season with Aizawl is vastly experienced in Indian football. He was with Mumbai FC leading them for eight straight years making him the longest-serving manager in the league.

Title-winning manager Khalid Jamil will be looking to make the most of this crucial derby

But all this success came in keeping with his philosophy of defensive and physical football. These tactics was proving good as East Bengal retained their CFL crown. But, those very tactics came under heavy scrutiny and criticism from both the fans and club legends alike after the loss to the Mariners earlier this season.

The defensive style and the mindset that Jamil prefers have raised eyebrows as East Bengal have already dropped points in three games in spite of leading their opponents for the most part of the 90 minutes. The quality of players East Bengal has at their disposal is also best suited to free-flowing, attacking football. The likes of Mohammed Rafique, Al Amnah, Katsumi, Cavin Lobo, David, Ralte, Joby Justin are not players known for their defensive qualities.

Also, Jamil’s team selection has drawn a lot of criticism. It is to be seen what tactics Jamil resort to in this game as it is crucial for East Bengal if they want to stay on course in the title race.

Written by : Rajarshi Chowdhury

Published: Fri Jan 19, 2018 06:55 PM IST


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