(Football news) ATK Mohun Bagan will renew their age-old rivalry with SC East Bengal for the second time this season in the Hero Indian Super League, there is a hot favourite and an underdog in the most anticipated fight of Indian football.
East Bengal were ahead of Mohun Bagan the last time on January 27 in 2019, making it a long wait for the fans. SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan made their way into the Hero ISL last season and met with different endings, further deepening SC East Bengal's worries as they finished ninth to ATKMB's final spot and a second-place finish in the league table.
The script has not changed this time despite SC East Bengal making a last minute swoop for one of ATKMB's protagonists Arindam Bhattacharya in goal. The first clash was a walk in the park for the Mariners who have since then not had a great season so far but for their rivals, the plane never took off as it took two head coach changes to get a victory, after 11 unsuccessful attempts.
Mario Rivera's side were left totally clueless by Hyderabad FC in their last outing while ATKMB played out a goalless draw after a mini-break to remain eighth in the table but with three more games to play.
Head coach Juan Ferrando will have the services of Hugo Boumous who will return to the team after serving a one-match suspension. "I am happy to be a part of this fixture. For me, it is a pleasure to be involved in such a big game. It is an opportunity to be part of this legacy. But, we do understand at the end of the day our target is to get 3 points and improve on how we play. It is necessary not to lose focus," said Ferrando on the eve of the marquee clash.
On SC East Bengal, he added: "SC East Bengal has changed a lot since the season started. If I talk about the last 3-4 games, their players played more freely, were compact, and pushed hard. I guess their supporters are happier now with the performance."
SC East Bengal have had a pattern of conceding goals before the halftime whistle and Rivera would want to break the record against a deadly attacking line of ATKMB. They have conceded a whopping 11 goals in the 15-minute period before half time (31-45) this season. No team has conceded more goals in this period. No team has conceded more goals in the first half of games this season than SC East Bengal (16).
"When you play a derby, league positions do not matter. The derby is always about facing your top rival and the outcome can be anything," said Rivera whose side are rock bottom in the points table with just nine points to show for from 13 games. ATKMB has one of the best attacking line-ups in the ISL. We have to stop their runs and make sure we don’t give them much space to maneuver. You need the right mix of technicality and tactical prowess to win a match, so both are important," he opined when asked about their rivals' attacking might."
ATK Mohun Bagan have an incredible 8-1 aggregate score across three games against SC East Bengal.
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