East Bengal, Mohun Bagan in crucial I-League derby

Indo Asian News Service

Siliguri (West Bengal), April 8 (IANS) Arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will have title aspirations firmly in mind when they lock horns for the second I-League football derby at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here on Sunday.

Bagan are third in the points table with 26 points from 13 games while East Bengal are a rung above them, on 27 points from 14 matches. Aizawl FC are the surprise leaders at the top of the heap, having 30 points from 14 ties.

If Bagan, who have won their last two games convincingly against defending champions Bengaluru FC 3-0 in a rescheduled I-League tie and Abahani Limited Dhaka 3-1 in the AFC Cup group stage, manage to get the better of East Bengal they will be in touching distance of Aizawl.

East Bengal, who have not played since March 12 due to the I-League break, will hope the gap turns around their recent run of poor results.

A win for them would see them go level on points with Aizawl but the latter would remain in pole position owing their solitary goal win at home in the second meeting between the two sides after both sides played out a 1-1 draw at the Barasat Stadium.

East Bengal lost to Churchill Brothers and Chennai City FC away consecutively before the breather denting their confidence as they bid to win the I-League for the first time since it was rechristened from the National Football League (NFL) in 2007.

Going by form, Bagan will go into the marquee tie as favourites. The green and maroon shirts, who have tasted I-League success in the 2014-15 season under coach Sanjoy Sen, have winger Sony Norde in top form along with forwards Balwant Singh and Yusa Katsumi who starred in the AFC Cup game and league tie against Bengaluru respectively.

Norde was pivotal in all three goals scored by Bagan against Bengaluru as the Haitian wizard wowed the home fans at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium with his sublime skills.

Katsumi netted a brace in the same game and Balwant also found the back of the net against Abahani Dhaka.

Jeje Lalpekhlua and Bagan's highest scorer of the season, Scottish striker Darryl Duffy will further bolster their attacking arsenal.

East Bengal will depend on Wedson Anselme and Willis Plaza to deliver the goods. Plaza has so far scored seven goals, the highest for Trevor Morgan's wards and the same as Duffy. Wedson too has shown good scoring instincts converting six times.

East Bengal will have the crowd baying for them though it is Bagan's home game. Siliguri has always had a strong East Bengal support base and on Sunday they will look to cash in on that.

The last time the two sides met here, it was a turgid 0-0 draw. Another draw would mean no change in the points table with both teams depending on Aizawl to drop points in the final few games of the season.

--IANS

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