The Red and Gold have themselves lost their last game and cannot afford afford any more bad days at the office.
Third-placed Kingfisher East Bengal will be hoping to keep pace with the top two sides in the race to win the 2017-18 Hero I-League when they host Chennai City FC at the Vivekananda Yuvabharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium) on Saturday.
Trailing current leaders NEROCA FC by five points with two games in hand, anything other than a win in their penultimate home game will see them crash out of the reckoning. The Red and Golds who have 26 points from fifteen games in their kitty will hope to achieve maximum against relegation-threatened Chennai City FC.
Head coach Khalid Jamil said, “Every match is important. They (Chennai City FC) are also a good team. You have to think positive. We have to change our strategy and need a good start. They have good Indian players. It doesn’t matter whether we’re playing at Barasat or Salt Lake, we have to play well wherever we play. The attitude should be good and have to put up and aggressive start. They will also be under pressure.”
Coming off a damning defeat at the hands of Gokulam Kerala FC, the Red and Golds will be itching to return to winning ways and most of the focus will be on the misfiring striking pair up front of Dudu Omgabemi and Ansumana Kromah. Both joined the Kolkata giants in the latest window but have failed to live up to the expectations with only one goal for the Nigerian to show amongst them.
Club captain Arnab Mondal will miss the game through suspension and senior-pro Gurwinder Singh might be given a look in. “Gurwinder is in the 18-man squad and he is an experienced player and mature. We will need him tomorrow,” added Jamil.
While Katsumi Yusa has been efficient from set-pieces, it will be imperative for the Japanese playmaker to combine with Mahmoud Al Amna to deliver the goods for Khalid Jamil’s side.
“We have three more matches to go. We want to take it match by match. We will show our spirit, we will show our guts, we will show our football. Of course, we conceded a lot because of some mistakes. It’s a team. We have to stay focused, very important is teamwork. We have to stay focused for 90 minutes. We must help each other and help the team,” said Katsumi on the eve of the game.
For Chennai City, surviving relegation will be of paramount importance in their remaining two fixtures and the end battle for them starts on Saturday itself. Confidence will be high after recording their first victory in over five weeks last Saturday when they defeated fellow strugglers Churchill Brothers 3-1, hence, opening up the fight to stave off the drop.
“The pressure will be on Kingfisher East Bengal because they are in the chance of winning the title. We are also facing relegation so our first job will be to win tomorrow. It will be a great season for us and the club if we manage to beat both Kolkata clubs away. A win in the last match gave us a lot of confidence and we hope to carry the momentum ahead,” said Chennai City boss V. Soundararajan ahead of the crunch encounter.
Michael Soosairaj, who had been instrumental with a brace will be hoping to strike a chord with winter transfer window signing Aleksandar Rakic again to lead from the front. With 16 points in as many games, a loss would only mean definite danger as Churchill, a place and a point below them would then have two games in hand over the Coimbatore-based side.
Last season, Kingfisher East Bengal’s title hopes evaporated in thin air after a loss to Chennai City and the Red and Golds need to be extra cautious this time with Chennai City desperate to remain in the top flight of Indian football.
The game kicks off at 02:00 PM IST and will be broadcast live on Star Sports 2/ 2 HD and streamed on HotStar and Jio TV.