Here are some of the exciting individual battles which can determine the outcome of the upcoming Kolkata derby…
The derby this time has lost a bit of its sheen primarily due to the fact that the Green and Maroons have already won the I-League title with four games to spare, but nonetheless, this fixture always remains special since pride is at stake for the two city giants.
The newly crowned champions will start Sunday’s derby as clear favourites mainly due to their fine form in the ongoing I-League where they are unbeaten in 14 games.
Compared to them East Bengal have had a rough season where they have seen a lots of ups downs. After the initial setback, the Red and Golds are slowly gaining momentum but they will still start as the underdogs.
Ahead of the much-awaited clash, we take a look at the some of the key individual battles which could determine the fate of the Kolkata derby.
Papa Babacar Diawara vs Johnny Acosta
Papa Babacar Diawara has been nothing short of a phenomenon for Mohun Bagan this season since joining the club in December. He took just three matches to settle in at the club (Real Kashmir, Indian Arrows and Punjab FC) but since the first phase of the Kolkata derby on January 19, there has been no stopping him. The former Sevilla striker has scored in nine consecutive matches since the derby and is currently the second highest goal scorer in the league.
It will be an uphill task for East Bengal’s Johnny Acosta Zamora who made his first appearance for the club in the last match against Real Kashmir since rejoining the Red and Golds this season. Acosta brought in the much needed solidity in the Red and Golds’ defence and will be coach Mario Rivera’s man to go in order to stop the high-flying Bagan striker.
Juan Mera vs Ashutosh Mehta
Juan Mera has been the only foreign recruit who has shown promise this season for East Bengal. The Spanish winger has been performing consistently for the Red and Golds this season, something which is very rare among the other foreign recruits of the Kolkata club.
Up against him will be Ashutosh Mehta, the Mohun Bagan right-back, who has been a crowd favourite after a very impressive season. East Bengal had won two penalties in their last two games against Gokulam Kerala and Real Kashmir and it was Mera’s guile that contributed to it. So Mehta has to be careful while dealing with skillful Spaniard, especially inside the box.
Joseba Beitia vs Kassim Aidara
Joseba Beitia has been the standout performer for the Green and Maroons all through the season and is undoubtedly their most valuable player. The Spanish talisman has already bagged two player of the match awards in the last two clashes against East Bengal and will be the Green Maroons’ main player once again on Sunday.
East Bengal’s defensive midfielder Kassim Aidara, who has had a lukewarm season, will have to be at his best and be vigilant at the centre of the park in order to keep a check on the Spanish star.