East Bengal up against Bengaluru in I-league contenders’ battle (Preview)

Kolkata, Jan 21 (IANS) Hosts East Bengal and defending champions Bengaluru FC will look to seize an early initiative in their quest for I-League football glory in a fourth round fixture here on Sunday.

The match has been billed as the tournament’s first big-ticket encounter this season at the Barasat Stadium on Sunday.

Bengaluru are on nine points, winning their opening three matches at home. East Bengal drew against Aizawl FC in the first home game before winning two straight games away against DSK Shivajians and Churchill Brothers. The hosts are on seven points after three outings.

“It is true that we have won three games in a row but an away game changes things. East Bengal are a tough side with some very good players and we’ll have to be better than we were before if we are to take anything away from this game,” Bengaluru coach Albert Roca told media persons on the eve of the match.

Roca, whose team swept aside Mumbai FC 3-0 with a hat-trick from forward C.K. Vineeth in their last game harped on the need to keep winning.

The Spaniard denied changing his approach to the game, maintaining that changes would only be made to cater to the need of his team.

“Every opposition plays a different game and as a coach, it’s important to make sure that the best suited team is out there. Some of our players have played all three games at home but whether they start or not depends on the opposition and the game plan,” Roca added.

With injured defender Sandesh Jhingan out of action, Roca mentioned that the squad has enough depth to see them through in the difficult match.

“Jhingan picked up a minor injury at training and I would rather have him recover completely with our medical team in Bengaluru than travel to Kolkata. But apart from that we have a squad that’s ready to take this game on. Sena Ralte returns to the squad after missing the previous game.”

East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan said after dropping points in the first match, his wards will be keen to collect three points in their home match, to stay in touch with Bengaluru and Mohun Bagan at the top of the standings.

“The match is very important to us. We did not get to the best of starts which made the two away wins really important. Seven points from three games is ok. Tomorrow’s a challenge for us and for the opposition,” Morgan said.

He added that Sunday’s game will be Bengaluru’s toughest assignment in the tournament yet.

“Hopefully we will be able to give them a stronger test tomorrow,” the Briton said.

In another match, Mumbai FC will be hosting in-form Aizawl FC at the Cooperage Stadium on Sunday.