Antonio Lopez Habas’ men started their 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) campaign with a 1-0 victory against Kerala Blasters on the opening night. In what was a cagey affair, both the sides looked disjointed in parts and it was obvious that the players were still getting into the rhythm and intensity of competitive football. It was therefore not surprising that the match was decided in the end by one moment of brilliance from Roy Krishna.
You’d wonder if the Mariners will get the same leeway the second time of asking though. After all, mistakes are remembered and never pardoned in a Kolkata derby, let alone the first derby in the history of the ISL. Also, the fact that this will be SC East Bengal’s first match of the campaign should play into ATK Mohun Bagan’s hands. The Red and Golds have had very little time to train together in the buildup to the season too and that is something that will surely play a part in the later stages of the match.
Coach Habas went with his preferred back-3 against the Blasters, deploying Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri at the back ahead of Arindam Bhattacharya in goal. Tiri gave a commanding performance in the heart of defence while Kotal was solid whenever required. Although Jhingan looked a little rusty at times, one can presume that he will still be picked ahead of Sumit Rathi who is the other option in that position. Prabir Das at right wing back should retain his place too even though he wasn’t at his usual best against Kerala with Jessel Carneiro keeping a check on him. At the left wing back position though, Subhasish Bose should come in to replace the injured Michael Soosairaj.
In midfield, Habas has lots of different combinations that he can go with. In Carl McHugh and Pronay Halder, he has two players who can play as the defensive screen with aplomb. To add the creative spark around them are the two Spaniards, Javi Hernandez and Edu Garcia. They also have the option of introducing Australia-born Scottish national Brad Inman for his first appearance for the club. Having played under Robbie Fowler at Brisbane Roar, he might have some inside info on how the Liverpool legend likes his team to play. The domestic options in midfield include the impressive Sk Sahil, who had a tremendous I-League campaign with the Mariners last season, Jayesh Rane and Glan Martins. However, you would suspect that Habas will not want to tinker too much with a settled midfield for the time being.
Roy Krishna’s goal in the first game means that he would be full of confidence coming into the derby. It will be interesting to see if he is played as the solo striker upfront or if Habas brings out his other trump card in the form of David Williams. The two share an incredible chemistry and almost have a telepathic understanding between them which has to be considered at some point. He also has the young Manvir Singh in his ranks who gave a good account of himself against Kerala with his industry and speed. However, the derby is when you bring your big guns to the fore and we think it is going to be Krishna and Williams up top for a match of this magnitude.
Arindam Bhattacharjee; Prabir Das, Pritam Kotal, Tiri, Sandesh Jhingan, Subhasish Bose; Carl McHugh, Pronay Halder, Edu Garcia; David Williams, Roy Krishna