Goa : Kingfisher East Bengal club will look to put their record straight against Sporting Clube de Goa in their Hero I League opener on Sunday . Coach Biswajit Bhattacharya and his team looked upbeat ahead of facing the Goa Pro League champions . East Bengal coach will be wary about facing Nigerian goal machine Odafa Okolie ,“ We have our plans ready against Odafa and know how to stop him from scoring . It is not to be discussed in the media . We know what his strengths and weaknesses are . ”
Defender Arnab Mondal , who will marshall the Red and Golds defence also sounded confident against facing Odafa ,“ We know how dangerous he can be around the box . Having played against him , I know what his strengths are . As a senior in the team , I have to take the responsibility in the defence as we cannot let in easy goals .” Arnab is still nursing a slight injury he suffered while playing in the SAFF Cup , but will definitely take the field against Sporting .
Biswajit Bhattacharya will look to start the I League on a positive note ,“ Our main target will be to get the full points . We cannot afford to lose point as it might prove costly at the end .”
In the last five contests spanning over the previous two seasons, Sporting Clube de Goa have turned out to be victors on two occasions, East Bengal have won once and the other two games have finished on level terms.
On the first occasion that the two sides met in the I-League last season, the score line read 1-1 with goals in each half by Ogba Kalu and Ranti Martins. The second leg turned out to be an entertaining 2-2 draw with Anthony Wolfe scoring two goals for the Goan side and Ranti Martins on the double for East Bengal.
It is interesting to note that on both occasions, Sporting came back from being in a losing position to draw the games. The two sides also met in a Federation Cup tie which finished 4-3 in favor of the Flaming Oranje courtesy of a Victorino Fernandes hat-trick.
Sporting Clube de Goa escaped relegation by a whisker last season, as they achieved a remarkable turnaround of form, after being winless in their first 13 fixtures. They picked up a whopping 16 points out of the possible 21 points in their last seven games to ensure they stayed put in the I-League this season.
The hierarchy at the club has invested in retaining the services of Nigerian striker Odafa Okolie and former Syrian international Mahmoud Amnah in midfield. With Miguel Garcia out with injury, another Nigerian in centre-back Loveday Okechukwu has been roped in. Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Densill Theobald, is set to complete the quote of foreigners at the club.
Sporting has built on the achievement of avoiding relegation last season by winning the Goa Pro League (GPL). The Mateus Costa coached side scored 37 goals but also conceded a goal a game in 18 outings. Dhamaraj Ravanan and Arindam Bhattacharya have been roped in and will go straight into the first team.
With a much more balanced side this season and coming on the back of a strong run of form domestically, Sporting Clube de Goa will impose a big threat to their opponents on Sunday.
East Bengal on the other hand will look to start of the season on a high against a club that has always given them some discomfort.
The Red and Golds finished fourth in the 2014/15 season as they failed to build on the previous season’s second place finish.
Biswajit Bhattacharya’s side will be upbeat heading into the new season after they won the Calcutta Football League (CFL) earlier last year. Bhattacharya’s side humbled rivals Mohun Bagan 4-0 in the CFL as well.
The club released three of their foreign players from last season, including defender Milan Susak, midfielder Leo Bertos and striker Dudu Omagbemi. The trio has been replaced by Bello Rasaq and Do Dong Hyun with the fourth foreigner slot yet to be completed. Ranti Martins is the club’s third foreign player.
East Bengal has completed a number of Indian signings from clubs across the country to bring together a well balanced unit.
With exciting talent in both camps, Sunday’s dose of entertainment in Hero I-League seems lock and loaded. Both sides will look to build on their revamped organizations but will be aware of the threat their opposition imposes.
With inputs from AIFF