East Bengal will look to continue their four-match unbeaten streak and avenge their home leg defeat when they face Gokulam Kerala FC in an I-League clash in Kozhikode on Tuesday.
In the last four matches, East Bengal have won two and drawn as many, but in the reverse fixture, they had lost to Gokulam 1-3 in Kalyani.
While East Bengal still has plenty of work to do, a couple of steps have been taken in the right direction by new coach Mario Rivera.
New signing Victor Perez has been a breath of fresh air in the midfield. He is allowing Juan Mera more freedom on the flanks and making Jaime Santos Colado play his natural game.
“The objective is to try and win all matches for the remainder of the season,” said an upbeat Rivera.
However, the Spanish coach is wary of the threat Gokulam possesses.
“Gokulam are a good team. They have a quality squad with great foreigners and besides that, they know this league inside out. It’s going to be a tough one for us,” he added.
Gokulam, on the other hand, will be looking to shake off their recent woes. In their last five matches, Gokulam have only managed to pick up five points (one win, two draws and two losses).
The Malabarians have struggled to find consistency and it has come back to haunt them time and again. They are languishing at seventh place on the league table with 18 points, one point adrift of their Tuesday’s opponents, who are at fourth.
Gokulam have a game in hand, though, and could leapfrog to third place with a win on Tuesday.
“East Bengal is a competitive team, a club with a lot of history and recognition. The two foreign additions have empowered the team and it will be a really difficult team for us, although we always rely on our potential, our qualities and our character,” said Gokulam head coach Fernando Santiago Valera.
Weighing on his team’s struggles, he said, “I think lack of success in front of goal has penalised us a lot. We are a team that generates good football and many possibilities to get a goal and with different players involved, not only our forwards.
“Maintaining the same philosophy is what makes us strong as a team and the progression of the players is clearly visible.
Punjab FC face Indian Arrows
Second-placed Punjab FC will take on Indian Arrows, the developmental side of All India Football Federation, in an I-League encounter in Mumbai on Tuesday with the aim of remaining in the title race.
Punjab FC come into the game on the back of a draw against Gokulam Kerala FC, which hampered their chase for the title after Mohun Bagan extended their lead at the top of the table with a 3-1 win over TRAU on Sunday.
The Warriors, who are now trailing the Mariners by 13 points, had got the better of the young Arrows by a scoreline of 1-0 when the two sides last met in Ludhiana.
Their striker Dipanda Dicka is on the cusp of making a piece of history as he sits only a strike away from completing a half-century of goals in the I-League.
The Cameroonian was also the solitary goal scorer for Punjab in the draw against Gokulam.
Speaking before the match, Head Coach, Punjab FC, Yan Law said, Our match against Gokulam didn’t go as expected. Both teams missed their chances and we couldn’t defend our lead. We are disappointed with the result but we are not giving up hope.”
“Mohun Bagan haven’t won the league yet and it’s mathematically possible for us to take the top spot. So we will keep fighting till the last match and hope for the best,” added Law.
The Punjab FC Head Coach is expecting a stiff challenge from the opponent.
“The Arrows are a very organised young team who keep causing their opposition all sorts of problems for the entire 90 minutes. We have to take this game very seriously as nothing less than three points will do for us,” he added.
The Indian Arrows, after losing the first two games by margins of 1-3 and 0-2 at the Cooperage ground in south Mumbai, would be hoping for a turnaround.
Their skipper and top goal-scorer Vikram Pratap Singh said, Punjab is a very good side and are second on the points table. They have many experienced players, few who have played for India in the past as well, along with a good bunch of youngsters.”
“Our game against them in Ludhiana was a really hard-fought one and we are expecting another tough match. We will give our 100 percent and go for the three points,” he signed off.