The Red and Gold will look to break the duck and clinch their maiden league title this season.
Just like their city rivals, East Bengal will also be getting ready for the upcoming season of the I-League. It will be now-or-never for the Kolkata based club who will look to break their jinx and add the I-league title to their well-decorated trophy cabinet.
The Red and Gold will be hoping that this might be their year, as they have appointed recently I-League winning coach Khalid Jamil. Jamil was a sensation in his stint for Aizawl FC, as they shocked everyone and became the first club from the northeast to clinch the crown.
With Jamil on board and a completely revamped squad, East Bengal will feel that this might be their best shot at the trophy. So, let us take a quick look at the five reasons that makes East Bengal title contenders this season
Appointing Khalid Jamil as Head Coach
After an underwhelming season last time around, East Bengal parted ways with then-coach Trevor Morgan. The Red and Gold finished 3rd in the league table three points behind city rivals Mohun Bagan and four behind champions Aizawl.
The Kolkata based club roped in I-League winning manager for their new season. Jamil who has the experience of winning the league will look to do the same this year for East Bengal.
The tactician has introduced a different style to East Bengal’s play. He likes to play the ball straight from defence to the wide full-backs, who then march forward along with the midfielders and overload the opposiiton’s half. Despite his attacking gameplay, his side seem to be vulnerable against teams who sit back with a solid defence and counter-attack. But, all in all, with Jamil’s tutelage the Red and Gold will look to break the shackles and win the I-League this season.
Signing Katsumi Yusa
East Bengal did manage to rope in Katsumi Yusa from their Bagan. Yusa is one of the most versatile and experienced foreigners in Indian football who has been in the mix for some time now.
Yusa can play as a winger, a central midfielder or just behind the striker. He is known for his passing and vision which allows his team to open up tight defences and create space for forwards to score. His versatility will help East Bengal in the long run and his partnership with former Aizawl midfielder, Mahmoud Al Amnah in midfield will likely decide the team’s fortunes this season.
Signing Aizawl players
East Bengal got hold of last year’s I-League winning manager Jamil from Aizawl. He brought in a lot of young talent from the northeast club. As the I-League and the Indian Super League are happening simultaneously, teams in the I-League have lost a lot of players who have switched clubs to play in the cash-rich league.
Hence, East Bengal have roped in several Aizawl players, who played alongside each other in their triumph for the northeast club. Their best signing was 34-year old Syrian midfielder, Mahmoud Al-Amnah, who was in the middle of everything at Aizawl as they won the league. The Syrian will be reunited with coach Jamil and will look to re-create the same magic for East Bengal.
The other new recruits include the likes of Lalramchullova, Brandon Vanlalremdika and Laldanmawia Ralte, who followed Jamil and Al-Amnah. These players know each other since their Aizawl days and having them in the team will likely increase the team chemistry and can guide them to glory.
Home matches at Salt Lake Stadium
Unlike last season, East Bengal will play their home matches at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan which is popularly known as the Salt Lake Stadium. Last year the Red and Gold played their home matches at Barasat and Kanchenjunga Stadium, as the Salt Lake was being renovated for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
There were a lot of injury woes for East Bengal throughout last season due to poor ground conditions at the other two venues. Playing at Salt Lake cancels out those problems and also it has been a happy hunting ground for the Red and Gold in the past.
Absence of Bengaluru FC
It’s needless to point out what Bengaluru FC have achieved in recent years. The club formed in 2013 has reached all heights in domestic as well as continental circuits. They have won the I-League twice and have gone as far as the final of the AFC CUP last year.
Now, the Blues have joined the ISL and their absence in the I-League will definitely lessen the competition for clubs like East Bengal and Bagan who will be going for the title right from the first day of the league.
With league stalwarts BFC moving to the cash-rich Indian Super League, it means the Red and Gold will likely be involved in a bi-polar title fight with rivals Mohun Bagan. The reduced competition should aid the team who will need all the luck they can get as they seek a maiden top-flight crown.