AFC Cup semi-finalists East Bengal will play their first home match of the Airtel I-League against winless Dempo in Kalyani on Thursday.
After not being in action in the first three rounds due to their AFC Cup commitments, East Bengal started their campaign in style by thrashing Shillong Lajong away 4-0 last week in a round four clash.
The red-and-gold brigade achieved that despite resting the likes of Mehtab Hossain, Arnab Mondal, Saumik Dey and Naoba Singh and now would be aiming for another win before their AFC Cup semi-final second leg against Kuwait SC in Kolkata on October 22.
Dempo on the other hand have had a very difficult start as they have drawn three of their four matches and thus are already seven points off the top. After throwing away leads in round two and three against Mumbai FC and Rangdajied United respectively, Dempo showed both character and quality to come from behind and earn a point against Salgaocar in the last game.
Assistant coach Mauricio Afonso, who was in charge due to head coach Arthur Papas’ absence as he was in Australia to sort out some visa issues, was proud of the team’s comeback and was quoted saying, “Overall, [it was a] good performance by the team, especially in the second half.”
Papas will be back in the technical area for this game and will be determined to get the first I-League win of his Dempo tenure but history is against his side as the Panjim-based club hasn’t beaten East Bengal in their last eight meetings in all competitions.
Meanwhile East Bengal too has had a few problems playing in Kalyani in the recent past as they have failed to win their last three games there. The Kolkata giants will be without injured duo Ryuji Sueoka and Reisangmi Vashum but the players who were rested against Lajong will be refreshed and raring to go in this encounter.
Their Brazilian coach Marcos Falopa is in a confident mood and looking to build on that impressive start in Shillong last week.
“We have started well. The players have been training very hard and we hope to put in a better performance against Dempo,” he said.
Despite playing three games less than Dempo, East Bengal are level on points with the five-time record Indian champions and above them in the table due to superior goal difference. So a victory here will see Falopa’s side open up a big gap over a club that has traditionally always challenged for the title. Papas and his players will be looking to finally kick-start their I-League campaign with an away win.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)