East Bengal look to stop Bagan’s charge in Kolkata derby (Match Preview 99)

Margao (Goa), Feb 18 (IANS) ATK Mohun Bagan face East Bengal in the second Kolkata derby of the Indian Super League (ISL) season on Friday at the Fatorda Stadium. The two clubs have experienced contrasting fortunes this season. While Bagan are competing with Mumbai City FC at the top of the table, East Bengal are out of contention to reach the top four.

However, East Bengal would be looking to make it as hard as possible for their arch-rivals to win the League Winners’ Shield and secure a spot in the group stage of the 2022 AFC Champions League.

For Robbie Fowler, who is suspended and will be watching from the stands, and his team, it will be an opportunity to give their fans something to brag about in a season where they haven’t had too many chances to do so. For Antonio Lopez Habas’s men, a victory is essential in their march to the title.

After 17 games, Bagan (36) have secured more than double that of East Bengal’s points tally (17) — highlighting the gulf in class between the two teams. However, despite the contrasting fortunes of the two teams, Bagan coach Antonio Habas said that the derby was different from other games.

“The derby is different,” he said. “The attitude (of players), the level (of pressure) is different than other matches because you have the possibility to change the season with one victory. It’s a dangerous match for us.”

For East Bengal, the derby presents an opportunity to set an early marker for next season. They came into the tournament much less prepared than others and that showed in their early displays. However, a much better second half of the ISL has given them something to build on for the next season.

“We’ve improved and you can see the players enjoying their game,” said East Bengal assistant coach Tony Grant. “This derby has got a lot of history and memories. We know how much the derby means to the people. The first derby was a bit unfair on us but now it’s a bit of an even playing field. Hopefully, we can do our fans proud.”

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