The Mariners will be looking to regain the title they narrowly missed out on last season.
Mohun Bagan will look to reclaim the title that they won back in 2014. Their eagerness will reach new heights considering the fact that they narrowly lost out on the title last year, as Aizawl FC emerged as surprise champions.
So this time round Bagan will look to answer their critics and prove that they still have the capability to win the league. Bagan had hopes of joining the Indian Super League (ISL) this year but that did not happen and so they will look to battle it out in the I-League once again.
It’s a new day and a new challenge for the Green and Maroons, they have a totally new squad with a different outlook. But coach Sanjoy Sen will look to bring his men together ahead of this crucial season.
So, lets have a look at the 5 reasons that make Mohun Bagan title contender for the I-league this season
Retaining star man Sony Norde
Retaining Norde was Bagan’s best piece of business in the summer
The name on every Mariner’s lips is Sony Norde, this man from Haiti has shown great skills and blistering speed with a blend of creativity on the left flank. Bagan showed great intent to retain the Haitian international and paid him a handsome amount to stay with the Kolkata club instead of joining the ISL.
Norde scored three goals and created innumerable chances from the left wing. He will look to replicate his stunning form in 2014 which helped the Mariners lift the I-League trophy that year.
Bagan’s success largely depends on their attack and Norde being their main man needs to deliver and his partnership with Aseir Dipanda Dicka upfront will be influential for the Mariners in winning the league this year.
Signing Asier Dipanda Dicka
Dipanda was very impressive last season for Shillong Lajong as he scored 11 goals and became the top scorer in the league. His performances for Lajong was influential for the Northeast club, as they managed their best ever performance in the league by finishing 5th.
Dipanda’s impressive performance did not go unnoticed as the Mariners did manage to secure his services. His terrific eye for goal and great finishing ability, is exactly what Bagan needed upfront. With quality players around him at Mohun Bagan, he will definitely get a lot more help from them and the Mariners hope that Dipanda can fill the void left by Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh, who left for ISL this season.
The striker will look to build a partnership with Norde, if both of them can grow an understanding then they can absolutely be nightmare for any defence in the league. Sony’s smart trickery and creativity will surely create openings in the opposition’s defence, which will allow Dipanda to prove his goalscoring prowess.
Experienced manager Sanjoy Sen
Sen’s league knowhow will be key for the Mariners
Sanjoy Sen did guide the club to glory in 2014 and there is absolutely no reason why he cant do it again this year. Sen was so close but yet so far last year as his side narrowly lost the title to Aizawl FC. But this time round when inexperience prevails among almost all teams in the league, as many players and coaching staff left for ISL teams, an experienced campaigner like Sen can be very useful for the Mariners.
He was also criticised for his casual approach in AFC Cup matches and he needs to put extra attention on that aspect and his rivalry with Khalid Jamil will get more ignited as Jamil will be in charge of their city rivals East Bengal. Sen will look to prove himself and guide his team to glory ahead of their city rivals.
An experienced starting XI compared to other teams
A lot of players switched clubs and went to ISL from I-league, as both are happening simultaneously. Each and every club in the I-League have suffered from it and inexperience in their ranks is clearly visible. But in case of Mohun Bagan, the same cannot be said, their foreign acquisitions mostly have played in India earlier. They have got a clear idea about the football, the weather and can easily adapt to the situations.
Players like, Yuta Kinowaki, Sony Norde, Aser Dipanda and Kingsley all have the experience of playing in this league and that experience will definitely give them an upper hand over others teams. Indian players like Shilton Paul, Kingshuk Debnath and Ricky Lallawmawma have proved their mettle in this league and will bring in valuable amount of experience to the team.
So the Mariners starting eleven seems to have that experience mainly in form of their foreigners and hopefully they can make good use of it to guide the Kolkata club to the title this season.
Dominance in Kolkata Derby in recent seasons
The Kolkata Derby now turns out to be the most awaited and most crucial fixture in the context of winning the I-League. Both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are title contenders this season, but the tide can tilt towards the Mariners this season, as they have been more dominant in this fixture in recent years.
The first derby last season In I-league was a goalless affair and the 2nd one was won by the Mariners 2-1 over their fierce rivals. Sony Norde opened the scoring for Mohun Bagan on the 35th minute and young prospect Azharuddin Mallick doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time. Willis Plaza was sent off in the 2nd half and all East Bengal could manage was a consolation goal from Rowlin Borges.
In the Federation Cup last season the Mariners were convincing against the Red and Golds. Goals from Darryl Duffy and Balwant Singh saw them progress to the Federation Cup final, where they eventually lost to Bengaluru FC 2-0.