Calcutta: There was a surprise visitor at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Thursday morning, the eve of McDowell Mohun Bagan's crucial I-League match against Prayag United Sports.
The Bagan players were practising in all seriousness when one Jose Ramirez Barreto walked in. Now playing for Bhowanipur ' their practice was scheduled after Bagan's ' Barreto had a chat with Okolie Odafe. It was sort of a pep talk which Odafe and his teammates badly needed. An inspiration from someone who lives up to the adage "been there done that".
An early exit from Federation Cup, a loss to Lajong FC in the I-League opener, it's a bed of nails for coach Santosh Kashyap and his men. A loss against United SC will only make matters worse.
Bagan are going for the jugular on Friday. Tolgay Ozebe and C.S. Sabeeth are likely to partner Odafe upfront as Kashyap hinted that he may start with a 4-3-3 formation.
Tolgay sounded confident about getting goals. "I admit that Odafe and I have failed to get going… But these are early days… We have practised hard for the past three days… I think we will both play well tomorrow. We will focus on attacking from the start," he said.
While Bagan will look to attack from the outset, the expensively-assembled United SC will just sit back and defend. Federation Cup debacle is a thing of the past as we saw the other day United SC running roughshod over a hapless Air India. Ranty Martins got a hat-trick.
The Nigerian is in superb form for United SC this season. And eight goals in seven matches drive home the point. With the side likely to play in 4-4-2 formation, Kayne Vincent will be partnering Ranty upfront.
However, the fate of the match will be decided on which team will win the battle in the midfield.
With the likes of an in-form Carlos Hernandez, Shylo Malsawamtluanga, Vineeth C.K. and Asif K., United SC are likely to have an edge over Bagan, whose midfield will be marshalled by Manish Maithani, Jewel Raja and Denson Devadas.
Carlos' precise passing and delivery could prove to be crucial for United SC.
United SC, however, will be worried about their defence as they will be missing Bello Rassaq, who will be serving a one-match ban. Coach Sanjoy Sen will, however, welcome back Gouramangi Singh, who has recovered from viral fever.