East Bengal vs Kerala Blasters: Preview and Prediction
The second fixture of matchday 18 of the 2022-23 Indian Super League season will see East Bengal taking on Kerala Blasters in Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium on Friday.
For East Bengal, it has been a season to forget and despite what mathematics will say, their primary target will now be to finish in a respectable position. With only four wins from 15 matches and 12 points, the Torchbearers need help in ninth place.
On the other hand, Kerala Blasters have been among the better teams this season, building on the foundation they built last time around. The Tuskers have won nine of their 15 matches, and with 28 points, they are placed third in the standings.
East Bengal had a disastrous start to their season, where they lost four of their first five matches against Kerala Blasters, Goa, ATK Mohun Bagan, and Chennaiyin. That run was followed by a slightly better spell as Stephen Constantine’s men won two of their next three matches against Bengaluru and Jamshedpur.
But just when it seemed that Constantine had cracked the code, things fell apart like a pack of cards and East Bengal has been in a horrendous condition ever since. The Torchbearers have lost six of their last seven matches against Hyderabad, Mumbai City, Odisha, Jamshedpur, Hyderabad, and Goa.
Like their opposition, Kerala Blasters too had a poor start to their season, as they lost three of their first four matches against ATK Mohun Bagan, Odisha, and Mumbai City. However, it was followed by a superb run that spanned two months.
During this phase, Ivan Vukomanovic’s men were unbeaten for eight games straight. They won seven of these matches, while the fixture against Chennaiyin resulted in a 1-1 draw. Two back-to-back defeats against Mumbai City and Goa halted their steady rise, but the Tuskers have since bounced back with a 2-0 win over NorthEast United.
Head to Head Record
The head-to-head records are inclined in favour of Kerala Blasters. The Tuskers have won two of the previous five league meetings against East Bengal, while the other three matches ended in stalemates – meaning the Torchbearers have never emerged victorious.
The previous meeting, which happened to be the very first match of the season, ended in a 3-1 win for the Tuskers. An Ivan Kalyuzhnyi brace and an Adrian Luna wonder strike comprised the three goals scored by Vukomanovic’s side, while among Constantine’s men, Alex Lima was the lone goal-scorer.
New English strike Jake Jervis could make his debut for East Bengal
After a disappointing 2-4 defeat against Goa, Constantine is expected to make quite a few changes to his starting XI. One of them will be a forced change, as promising centre-back Lalchungnunga will be unavailable as he needs to serve a one-game suspension after picking up four yellow cards.
He could be replaced by Sarthak Golui, while on the opposite flank, Jerry Lalrinzuala could make way for Tuhin Das. New signing Jake Jervis could feature up front alongside Cleiton Silva at Sumeet Passi’s expense. Still, in such a scenario, the English tactician will have to balance the overseas count by dropping Charalampos Kyriakou for Athul Unnikrishnan.
Similarly, Vukomanovic is also expected to make changes to his team, though his side won their last match 2-0 against NorthEast United. The new signing from Bengaluru, Danish Farooq is expected to feature in midfield alongside Jeakson Singh.
Luna could hence be switched back to his usual position on the left flank, with Bryce Miranda dropping to the bench. Besides that, Rahul KP also did not look too convincing against the Highlanders and he could make way for Sahal Abdul Samad.
East Bengal (4-4-2): Kamaljit Singh; Sarthak Golui, Ivan Gonzalez, Athul Unnikrishnan, Tuhin Das; VP Suhair, Mobashir Rahman, Jordan O’Doherty, Naorem Mahesh Singh; Cleiton Silva, Jake Jervis.
Kerala Blasters (4-4-2): Karanjit Singh; Harmanjot Khabra, Ruivah Hormipam, Victor Mongil, Jessel Carneiro; Sahal Abdul Samad, Jeakson Singh, Danish Farooq, Adrian Luna; Apostolos Giannou, Dimitrios Diamantakos.
Kerala Blasters hold the psychological edge on head-to-head record, whereas there can be no comparison between the two teams in terms of the current form. Hence, we have predicted the Tuskers to have a comfortable victory in this match.