What is poised to be an absolute humdinger in round 16 of the I-League, title contenders Bengaluru FC will be locking their horns with Kingfisher East Bengal at their Fortress today. Having played an equal number of matches, the team from Kolkata is currently ranked third in the points table, only two points behind Bengaluru.
Hero I-League has never been so interesting as it’s a two-team title race now between Bengaluru FC and Kingfisher East Bengal after Mohun Bagan’s 3-3 draw with DSK Shivajians yesterday.
Bengaluru FC is back home after a 1-1 away draw against DSK Shivajians. However, the result didn’t perturb gaffer Ashley Westwood, who reckon the latter is a much-improved side having unbeaten in their last 7 games including their swashbuckling display against Mohun Bagan.
The only worrying factor for gaffer is the backbone of the defense, John Johnson’s absence in today’s match. The Middlesbrough Academy cadet will give today’s tie a miss due to yellow card suspension.
Other than the Shankar Sampangiraj’s injury, who’s out for the rest of the season, Bengaluru have no other injury problems. Ashley looked calm, he said, “Tomorrow’s match will not decide the title, we can still wrap it up with one draw and two wins in the remaining three rounds.”
Kingfisher East Bengal, in their last five rounds, had to swallow two losses on the road and a win against Aizawl FC, then a morale-boosting derby win and a disappointing home draw against Mumbai FC.
For Kingfisher East Bengal coach and former India international Biswajeet Bhattacharya, it is a must-win game to stay in the title contention.
“Tomorrow’s game is an important game for both teams, Bengaluru FC is a good team, they are in good position, and we are also on the run. We are very serious, we believe in our boys, and we have to go for a win”, said Biswajit Bhattacharya. He further added, “Football is full of surprises, you win some you lose some. When we met Bengaluru at home in Round 5, we were seven points behind and in round 9 and 10 we were trailing by five points. If you see now (Round 16), we are just two points less, and it can be anybody’s game tomorrow.
The latest news from East Bengal camp is that their central defender. Arnab Mondal will be serving a two-match suspension starting today.
That might prompt Biswajit to field experienced Deepak Mondal against Bengaluru FC. Deepak Mondal, a 1998 Tata Football Academy product, the mainstay in the defense is playing his 16th season in I-League/National Football League uninterrupted. Incidentally, Deepak accompanied his coach in the pre-match press conference.
On being asked how long he would be playing at the top level, Deepak answered cheekily, “If I am fit, I will keep going. Most important for me is to get a platform to perform, if I get a club like this, I can play for few more seasons.”
The match will be played today at 7:05 PM at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. The Round 16 encounter will be aired live on Ten 2.