Defending champions Chennai City FC and Kolkata giants East Bengal will lock horns against each other in a crucial I-League game in Coimbatore on Saturday, with both teams desperately needing a win to stay alive in the competition.
With the 13th I-League season approaching its half-way mark, Chennai City are in eighth place, having picked up eight points six games.
East Bengal too have same points from seven matches but sit a place above in seventh spot by virtue of a superior goal difference.
Chennai City will be boosted by their hard-fought 3-2 win over Gokulam Kerala FC in the Southern Derby.
Chennai City midfielder Katsumi Yusa, who donned the famous Red and Gold once, said: “I am feeling very happy to play against East Bengal. I have played with them previously and their supporters were very good to me.
“They are a fresh team now, with new talents and good footballing philosophy, so they will be a good team to face and I am looking forward to the game.”
The mood in the Red and Golds camp will be totally different after having endured three defeats in a row, but none as deflating as their loss to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in the Kolkata derby on January 19.
Since the turn of the new year, East Bengal have had their work cut out and now find themselves in a position where they cannot afford another loss.
East Bengal also announced the departure of head coach Alejandro Menendez earlier this week, which doesn’t make their situation any better.
Taking over the reins will be Spaniard Mario Rivera Campesino, who was Alejandro’s assistant at East Bengal last season.
However, they will be aided by the signing of Liberian forward, Ansumana Kromah, who has re-joined the club.
But the visitors would be hit hard by the unavailability of defender Marti Crespi, after the veteran Spaniard picked up his fourth yellow card of the season against Mohun Bagan.
Commenting on Saturday’s game, East Bengal midfieder Juan Mera said: “I think the team has played some very good games so far. We have had bad luck with goals going forward.
“We must continue working to improve day-by-day.
TRAU aim to keep winning run going
A hat-trick of wins under their belt, confident TRAU FC would look to continue their winning momentum when they host Aizawl FC in an I-League match in Imphal on Saturday.
Placed third in the standings with 11 points in their kitty from eight games, TRAU are on a winning spree since their historic victory in the Imphal derby which set their run in motion.
Since then, TRAU have defeated the Indian Arrows 2-0 and Churchill Brothers FC 2-1 respectively, all of which came after the arrival of head coach Dimitris Dimitriou.
Speaking before the match, the TRAU FC coach Dimitriou, said, “We are delighted that we have three wins in a row against very good opponents and we are unbeaten in the last five games.
“The results are coming because of the hard and discipline of the players. My boys have started believing in themselves again and in their teammates.
“At the moment, my only worry is that we have a lot of young players in the squad and they must keep their feet on the ground. With the help of the experienced players, foreigners and locals, we are trying to keep their feet on the ground because it is easy to reach high but hard to stay there,” he added.
TRAU coach, however, said it won’t be easy for them against a big team like Aizawl.
“Our next opponent Aizawl is a club with four or five times bigger budget than my team. They have good players and a solid team. They have also made a few additions during this transfer window and being former champions, they are a well-organised club,” Dimitriou said.
“It is going to be a hard game against them but I hope my players will overcome all the difficulties and we will get three valuable points and stay in the top half of the league.”
Aizawl FC, on the other hand, will be playing after a gap of two weeks. The same seems to have given a much-needed breather to the team to rethink their strategy.
The former champions lie ninth on the table at the moment with eight points from seven games, out which they have only lost a solitary match and drawn five games.
A win in this match will ensure Aizawl’s first win after a continuous streak of four draws.
Aizawl head coach Stanley Rozario looked at the positive side of the break and said, “We got a two-week break and we have built up our team in all the games related to aspects like transition in attacking and defending, converting goal-scoring chances and more focused on avoiding silly mistakes.
“We have also played a friendly match with the Mizoram state team and won it. Now my team is ready and my players are confident and looking forward to taking on TRAU FC. We will try hard to get three points,” he said.
Rozario also praised TRAU FC and said: “TRAU FC started the league very poorly by losing three matches and they were at the bottom of the table but now it is totally different. The team has transformed under coach Dimitriou.