Mohun Bagan Super Giant vs East Bengal: Preview and Prediction
The biggest game in Indian football, the first Kolkata derby of the season between Mohun Bagan Super Giant and East Bengal is set to take place on Saturday, at the famed Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
The ‘El Clasico’ of Indian football will divide the city of joy and the entire nation to a certain extent, in two halves as the two most prestigious clubs of the nation gear up to lock horns in the Durand Cup 2023.
The two Kolkata giants were clubbed together in Group A for the 132nd edition of Asia’s oldest football tournament along with ISL new boys Punjab and Bangladesh Army.
The reigning Indian Super League champions, the Mariners have been in scintillating form in the Durand Cup so far having registered two wins from as many games as they sit pretty atop their group. On the other hand, the Red and Gold Brigade squandered a 2-0 lead as they were held to a 2-2 draw against Bangladesh Army in their opening fixture.
Carles Cuadrat’s men will have to pick up a win against their arch-rivals if they want to remain alive in the race for the knockouts while the formidable army of Juan Ferrando will be looking to continue their momentum by picking up yet another win over their cross-town neighbours.
The two Kolkata giants will be hoping to get their noses in front as they remain the joint-most successful teams in this competition having won it 16 times each. Ferrando’s side got the competition underway with a staggering statement of intent as they thrashed Bangladesh Army 5-0.
Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh, Suhail Ahmed Bhat, Lalrinliana Hnamte, and Kiyan Nassiri were on the scoresheet. In their next outing, the Mariners put 2022-23 I-League champions Punjab to the sword by picking up a 2-0 win courtesy of an own goal from Melroy Assisi, followed by Hugo Boumous’ winning strike.
On the other hand, the Torch Bearers were held to a 2-2 draw by Bangladesh Army with debutants Saul Crespo and Javier Siviero putting their side 2-0 ahead at the break, only for them to concede two late goals.
Ahead of the first Kolkata derby of the season, Ferrando and Co. need just a draw from their final Group A fixture to all but secure their place in the quarter-final whereas Cuadrat’s side have it all to play for as they sit in second place with just a solitary point.
A defeat against the Mariners could seriously derail the campaign of East Bengal who would then need a win against Punjab in their final group game. The newly promoted ISL side is set to lock horns with Bangladesh Army on August 10 and that game could shake things up in the group.
In the ISL, Mohun Bagan Super Giant has won all six ISL games against East Bengal. Talking about other competitions there have been 385 meetings between the two teams.
The Red and Gold Brigade have the edge with 132 wins, but the Green and Maroons are catching up with 127 wins while 125 fixtures ended all square. Ferrando’s side won the previous meeting between the two sides which was a 2-0 win in the ISL.
Interestingly, Ferrando’s side picked up a relatively easy win in their Durand Cup opener even without many of their senior players. For their next game, six senior players including two overseas players returned to the starting XI, and therefore it will be interesting to see whether the Spaniard will opt for the same lineup, or will he field his strongest available team.
Star players Jason Cummings, Sahal Abdul Samad, Armando Sadiku, and Anirudh Thapa are all likely to start after missing the first two matches.
On the other hand, coach Cuadrat will have a couple of selection dilemmas as new signing Nishu Kumar picked up a red card in his previous game and will therefore be suspended for the highly anticipated clash.
Star forward Cleiton Silva is also expected to arrive in India on Friday morning therefore it will be a late call for the coach to decide whether he will be fit enough to start or he may even feature off the bench.
Predicted Starting XIs
Mohun Bagan Super Giant (4-2-3-1): Vishal Kaith; Ravi Rana, Brendan Hamill, Anwar Ali, Subhasish Bose; Anirudh Thapa, Glan Martins; Manvir Singh, Hugo Boumos, Armando Sadiku; Jason Cummings
East Bengal (4-5-1): Prabhsukhan Singh Gill; Lalchungnunga, Sarthak Golui, Jordan Elsey, Jose Antonio; Mandar Rao Desai, Nishu Kumar, Nandhakumar Sekar, Saul Crespo, Naorem Mahesh Singh; Cleiton Silva
The Mariners’ last defeat to their cross-town rivals came way back in 2018 in the I-league. Since then the Green and Maroons have embarked upon an eight-match unbeaten streak and given their recent form, it is highly unlikely that Cuadrat’s side will be able to cause an upset. Ferrando’s side will be expected to pick a win and seal their place in the quarter-final stage of the Durand Cup.