The Red and Gold are six points behind their opponents having played a game more and defeat would spell doom for their hopes of the crown.
Kingfisher East Bengal will be hoping not to slip further away from the I-League title race when they host Minerva Punjab FC at the Vidyasagar Krirangan (Barasat Stadium).
The Red and Golds, who had their eight-game unbeaten streak ended at the most recent edition of the Kolkata derby against Mohun Bagan a fortnight ago will be looking to get back to winning ways. There will be no better opportunity than to steal points off leaders Minerva Punjab, who sit pretty at the summit with 25 points having played one match fewer. Kingfisher East Bengal trail by six points, having played a game more in the third spot.
Head coach Khalid Jamil already termed the encounter as his side’s toughest of the season so far. “This is the toughest match. It won’t be easy; they are on top they and are doing a good job. Everyone should give 100 percent tomorrow”, he said on the eve of the game.
“They have good players and a good coach. Their players are hungry for success. They attack all out. Everyone in their team is a threat to us. The defenders are good and solid and they possess a good attack. There is no one specific so we have to try hard tomorrow. Everyone knows how important this game is”, he added.
“My players are matured. I didn’t say anything special. In every match there is pressure. Since the beginning (of the season) there is pressure. Tomorrow’s match will be a turning point for both sides”, opined the former Indian international.
New signing Ansumana Kromah, who incidentally joined from arch-rivals Mohun Bagan is in line to make his debut in attack alongside Dudu Omagbemi, who has just played a solitary game since his arrival this season so far. In a major blow to the Red and Golds, Mahmoud Al Amnah has been ruled out of the game and much of the onus will be on Japanese playmaker Katsumi Yusa to make a supply chain for the forwards.
Another set of dropped points, where Kingfisher East Bengal have drawn thrice in their last five games will prove to be detrimental to any hopes of Hero I-League success this term.
Meanwhile, Khogen Singh and his side will be hoping to secure a perfect fifth victim on the road from as many games. On a run of four away draws, with three of them clean sheets, the momentum will definitely be on the Warriors’ side.
“We are confident. We are in good form. We don’t have any pressure. Not worried about the (artificial) turf (in Barasat). We are ready to play anywhere”, said Singh.
He added, “Kingfisher East Bengal are under pressure at the moment so perfect time to play against them. They are a big team and we know (they are under pressure).”
Minerva Punjab have never won against Kingfisher East Bengal but this season looks to be for re-writing record books for the Ludhiana-based side. Only twenty days ago, they defeated the other Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan 2-1, that too in an away fixture.
The onus will be on the likes of Chencho Gyeltshen and William Opoku to deliver the goods as the pair is one shy of reaching double-digits on the goal tally. Kiram Chemjong, the 27-year-old Nepalese international will be the one to look out for as he is slated to make his debut for the club between the sticks.
Hero I-League action returns to Barasat, for the first time this calendar year and it will be nothing less than a do-or-die game for the hosts in the afternoon Sun. Kick-off is at 2 PM IST. The match will be telecasted live on Star Sports 2/ 2 HD and will be streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.