Siliguri (West Bengal) April 8 (IANS) Mohun Bagan's in-form Japanese playmaker Yusa Katsumi said though Sunday's game against arch-rivals East Bengal is their home tie, it feels like an away game due to the huge support base of the latter in this part of West Bengal.
Due to the magnitude of the fixture, Mohun Bagan officials decided to move the game away from the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium where Bagan have played the rest of their home games barring the season opener.
But at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here, the boisterous masses will be more in number for East Bengal than Bagan.
"This game is very important to us. A derby is always special for the fans and also if we compare to other big teams. This is home but it feels like away," Katsumi told reporters on the eve of the match.
"I know that we had to play a home game in Siliguri, so we are mentally prepared," the former ONGC player added.
East Bengal lost both their last two encounters against Chennai City FC and Churchill Brothers on the road, and are on 27 points from 14 games. Bagan have played a game less and have 26 points in their kitty. More importantly, Bagan come into the tie with two back-to-back wins against defending champions Bengaluru FC and Dhaka Limited Abahani in the AFC Cup group stage.
Bagan chief coach Sanjoy Sen, meanwhile, said that "I don't know if East Bengal are underdogs. I just know how important the game is for us. It's not my headache what they term the game for them. If we win, we will be in a much better position, But if we lose we won't slide out of the title race."
Sen said that East Bengal's Haitian striker Wedson Anselme was given a lot of space the last time and they have to work on that ahead of the second meeting. Both sides played a goalless draw here in the first meeting.
"Last time, I remember Wedson got too much space and we will try to correct that. We will prepare after we get the team list. We still have a lot of time," he reflected.
Sen added that the I-League this season has been the toughest and that the pre-season favourites have been brushed under the carpet.
"I told that the I-League will be the toughest. The champions-elect, what the people focused as have been shoved out of the title race. I think no team is weak, be it Minerva, Chennai or Lajong. They have gone from strength to strength and sorted their teams out as the league has progressed," he pointed out.