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Durand Cup Derby: Mohun Bagan starts as favourite against East Bengal

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will renew their century-old rivalry at the city's sporting cauldron Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Saturday.

Durand Cup Derby: Mohun Bagan starts as favourite against East Bengal

Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. (Photo credit: Special Arrangement) 


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 12 Aug 2023 12:51 PM GMT

Kolkata: The stage is all set for the season's first Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan Super Giant and East Bengal FC, with the ticketing drama between the club officials and the Durand Cup organising committee before the high-octane 'boro match' (big match) leaving fans distraught.

The two Kolkata giants will renew their century-old rivalry at the city's sporting cauldron Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Saturday.

As this is the first derby since the axing of the 'ATK' prefix before Mohun Bagan's name after a prolonged outcry from the fans, fans are even more excited to see their team locking horns with archrival East Bengal.

Mohun Bagan is leading Group A with six points from two matches, while East Bengal is languishing in the third position following its 2-2 draw against Bangladesh Army. Mohun Bagan has netted seven goals so far and conceded none in a testament to its attacking and defensive prowess.

Hence, Juan Ferrando's ISL-winning Mohun Bagan will start the match as favourite against the rechristened East Bengal side, which on the other hand has retained only two players from the last season and recruited Spaniard Carles Cuadrat as the coach.


In the head-to-head record, East Bengal edges Mohun Bagan 132-127 in 384 meetings. The remaining matches ended in draws. In the Durand Cup, too, while both clubs hold the record for winning the most titles at 16 jointly, East Bengal has an 8-7 edge over its archrival, with five matches ending in a deadlock.

But the most recent records do not bode well for East Bengal, which has fallen steeply in the pecking order of Indian football, making bottom-rung finishes in the last three seasons of the Indian Super League. In their previous meeting in the Durand Cup in 2022, Mohun Bagan beat East Bengal 1-0, and in the ISL, East Bengal has been no match for Mohun Bagan, losing all six matches over the last three seasons.

For the new season, Mohun Bagan has retained its core team that won the ISL. In contrast, East Bengal does not have an established team. Under former Bengaluru FC coach Cuadrat, it will try to rebuild its squad in the Durand Cup to string together a strong team for the season.

Former footballer Shabbir Ali, who played for East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting, said, "Mohun Bagan has a better team, and East Bengal did not do well in the first match because the club has a new team. But that is a thing of the past now as the club's pride will be at stake, and this is a derby, anything can happen."

While fans will hope to see tactical brilliance from the two coaches of Barcelona lineage, that the Kolkata derby is coming right at the onset of the ongoing Indian football season also poses a challenge to Cuadrat, as putting up a team capable of stopping the Mohun Bagan juggernaut will not be easy for him.

Cuadrat, who landed in Kolkata on August 2, has just watched the match against Bangladesh Army so far, which East Bengal drew after conceding two late goals.

Cuadrat is well aware of the difference between the two clubs. Asked about the derby, he said, "I have to be realistic. Mohun Bagan is the champion of India. They won ISL, and we have a new team to build on. They have an established team and a familiar coach, and we have to start from scratch."

Even though Mohun Bagan will start the game as a favourite, the derby, where emotions run high, and pride goes for a toss, can pull surprises. But the absence of defender Nishu Kumar, who was sent off in the game against Bangladesh Army, could hurt East Bengal's prospects. Hence, the club's latest signings Jordan Elsey and Jose Pardo's role will become critical in the derby.

The Spanish coach pledged, "We will definitely try to change the dynamics and turn things around."

Players to watch out for:

Liston Colaco:

In Mohun Bagan's last two matches, the player who caught the attention of one and all was Liston Colaco. The Goanese winger, who joined the Mariners from Hyderabad FC in 2021, scored twice and had an assist to Suhail Ahmed Bhat's goal. His return to form after a dismal show last season is certainly a big boost for Mohun Bagan.

Saul Crespo, Jordan and Jose:

The players of whom Cuadrat has spoken highly in his introductory press conference are Saul Crespo, Jordan and Jose.

"We want to build a competitive team, and I am optimistic that Saul Crespo, Jordan (Elsey) and Jose (Pardo) will play significant roles along with their teammates," Cuadrat had asserted in his August 6 press conference.

Crespo is a 27-year-old midfielder and already scored a goal. His role will be critical for East Bengal to get hold of the game as the incisive passes and attacking moves will be built by him. Crespo has previously played for Odisha FC.

The derby could also see East Bengal handing debuts to Jordan, 29, and Jose, 35. Cuadrat may not try them from the kick-off, but he will like to put their skills to the test in this big game later.

Probable XI

East Bengal: Prabhsukhan Gill (GK), Mohamad Rakip, Lalchungnunga, Gursimrat Gill, Mandar Rao Dessai, Harmanjot Khabra (c), Saul Crespo, Naorem Mahesh Singh, Vanlalpeka Guite, Nandhakumar Sekar, Javier Siverio

Mohun Bagan: Vishal Kaith (GK), Anwar Ali, Brendan Hamill, Hugo Boumous, Manvir Singh, Subhasish Bose (c), Abishek Suryavanshi, Liston Colaco, Glan Martins, Ravi Rana, Suhail Bhat

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