East Bengal vs Punjab: Preview and Prediction
East Bengal occupy the seventh position in the points table with 11 points having won two matches and drawn two matches. They have also lost three games this season and would be hoping that the number doesn’t increase before the AFC Asian Cup break.
Carles Cuadrat’s strength lies in their wingers as Nandhakumar Sekar and Naorem Mahesh Singh pose threats from both ends and capitalize on the mistakes made by the opposition full-backs.
Punjab is one of the two winless teams in the tournament and has conceded the most number of goals in ISL this time. With four points from eight games, the Northerners would be aiming to climb a few positions in the points table with a win.
East Bengal’s three losses this season have come by a margin of only one goal as they got the shorter end of the stick thrice. However, they will be buoyed by their latest 5-0 win over NorthEast United. Cleiton Silva and Nandhakumar Sekar scored a brace each while Borja Herrera scored the other goal.
Prior to that, they played a 1-1 draw against Chennaiyin with the Red and Golds finding the net via an own goal. Cleiton Silva’s late penalty proved to be too little too late as Kerala Blasters defeated them 2-1.
East Bengal has lost eight points from winning positions which included two losses to Bengaluru and Goa and will aim to collect all three points against Punjab.
On the other hand, Punjab has lost to Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Odisha, Chennaiyin, and Mumbai City with draws against NorthEast United, Jamshedpur, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru.
Despite leading 3-1 against Bengaluru, Punjab ended up dropping two points as the match finished at 3-3. Nikhil Prabhu, Dimitris Chatziisaias, and Luka Majcen scored quickfire goals but their defense let them down.
Juan Mera gave Punjab the lead but Hyderabad scored a late equalizer to snatch a point in a 1-1 draw in a match prior to that. Luka Majcen scored a goal for Punjab and they led against Mumbai City till the 80th minute before the opposition scored two goals in the last 10 minutes.
Head to Head Record
This will be the first ISL encounter between East Bengal and Punjab in the ISL as the latter got promoted this season itself.
East Bengal and Punjab clashed earlier in the 2023 edition of the Durand Cup in a dead rubber as the Red and Golds had already been declared table-toppers after wins against Mohun Bagan SG and the Bangladesh Army while Punjab could only collect a point courtesy of a 0-0 draw against Bangladesh Army.
Cuadrat rung in many changes in the starting XI and Javi Siviero delivered the killer blow in the 22nd minute helping his side win 1-0 as East Bengal finished Group A Winners with 9 points from 3 matches.
Jordan Elsey is yet to recover completely from his injury and remains out of action for East Bengal for an elongated period. Mohammad Rakip might take the position of Harmanjot Khabra who was substituted in the first half in the fixture against NorthEast United with a knock.
Krishnananda Singh might replace Prasanth Karuthadathkuni in the lineup of Punjab like he replaced him in the second half in the game against Bengaluru as Punjab goes full-strength into the battle against the Reds and Golds as there are no injury or suspension concerns.
Predicted Starting XIs
East Bengal (4-5-1): Prabhsukhan Singh Gill; Mohammad Rakip, Lalchungnunga, Hijazi Maher, Mandar Rao Dessai; Mahesh Naorem Singh, Souvik Chakraborty, Saul Crespo, Borja Herrera, Vishnu Puthiya Valappill, Cleiton Silva
Punjab (4-2-3-1): Ravi Kumar; Nitesh Darjee, Dimitris Chatziisaias, Suresh Meitei, Khaiminthang Lhungdim; Nikhil Prabhu, Ashish Pradhan; Juan Mera, Madih Talal, Krishnananda Singh; Luka Majcen
East Bengal is the clear favorite at home riding high on confidence after beating NorthEast United. The odds of Punjab picking up a win amidst a boisterous Kolkata crowd looks slim but the Northerners have delivered a few succulent performances so far in the league.
They are yet to pick up a win with an inexperienced defensive setup. The likes of Naorem Mahesh Singh, Nandhakumar Sekar, and Cleiton Silva will be licking their lips to add more goals and assists to their tally.