Ask Trevor James Morgan about the challenge of keeping East Bengal perched on top of the heap, he replies in a typical sardonic English humour, “it is exciting but tough.” The astute coach of East Bengal was equally measured in his appreciation when assessing the seventh round opponent – ONGC FC – which his team will meet at home (Salt Lake Stadium) on the weekend.
“Our opponent ONGC is a very good side which is capable of challenging any team in the tournament. They have beaten a side like Dempo and also held teams like Mohun Bagan and Prayag United to draws,” said Morgan on the eve of their match. “For a team which have such creditable performance, I have to give them the due importance,” the East Bengal coach was specific.
East Bengal, which is high on confidence after blanking a strong Churchill Brothers at the latters’ home in the last round, will look to continue the momentum and consolidate the lead on top of the standings. East Bengal has 14 points from six rounds. “A home match gives you the right opportunity to build up on the points tally and we hope to do that tomorrow,” said Morgan. “I must thank ONGC for beating Dempo SC, which helped us gain the top position,” Morgan made a witty observation. East Bengal will see the return of their most hard-working midfielder Mehtab Hossain, whom Morgan rates as one of best men in the job. “I have to choose between Mehtab and Subodh Kumar, who did quite in the last match against Churchill Brothers,” Morgan said though there are indications that the coach would prefer to see Mehtab pairing up in the usual position with Nigerian Orji Penn. Mehtab missed the earlier match with an injury.
The East Bengal midfielder Sanju Pradhan suffered an injury during the team’s local league engagement couple of days ago and he will be replaced by Robin Singh in the squad of 18. East Bengal will have the usual combination in attack with Edeh Chidi and Manandeep Singh in the attack while the midfield may have the usual shape with Penn and Mehtab in the middle and Ishfaq Ahmed and Harmanjot Khabra on the flanks. The defence will have the usual look with Uga Okpara and Arnab Mondal in the centre while Saumik Dey and Naoba Singh manning the sides.
“We need points and will play with the sole objective of earning one or many from the match tomorrow,” said the ONGC coach Subrata Bhattacharya. “East Bengal is a very strong side but ONGC has proved their capacity by beating a top side like Dempo in the previous match,” Bhattacharya sought to find the right motivation against East Bengal.
ONGC has three foreigners in Nigerians Adeola, Eric Brown and Kasumi Yusa while it will bank on the seasoned campaigner Jatin Bisht to provide inspiration at the centre of the park. “We know that East Bengal has one of the best combinations in the country but we will try to break their rhythm and get the match in our favour,” was how Bhattacharya looked at possibility of upstaging the home favourite tomorrow.