The Red and Golds have improved massively since the turn of the year. But can they churn out a positive result against the league leaders?
East Bengal are yet to lose a match in 2021. After a bitter start to their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign, Robbie Fowler’s men have gradually found their feet in the competition.
The inclusion of Bright Enobakhare has provided a fresh impetus in attack while defensively Danny Fox, Scott Neville along with an in-form Debjit Majumder have been more solid at the back. Meanwhile, Matti Steinmann has effortlessly dictated proceedings in midfield which has helped East Bengal look composed and purposeful.
But, they will be in for a stiff challenge when they lock horns against a high-flying Mumbai City FC, who have been in a league of their own after a few initial hiccups. They not only boast of scoring the maximum goals (17) but have been equally economical in defence as they have conceded the least (4).
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To churn out something from the match, it is needless to say that Robbie Fowler’s men must put their best foot forward. There must be a synergy between collective and individual brilliance to triumph or at least stop the Islanders.
Each one of the players in the defensive unit will be entrusted with specific responsibilities. The defence must contend with Adam le Fondre and also keep a watch out for midfielders like Rowllin Borges or Hugo Boumous making a late run into the box.
In the wide areas, a couple of individual battles are on the cards as Bipin Singh and CY Goddard will go up against Ankit Mukherjee and Narayan Das respectively. What makes them more dangerous is that they swap positions with the midfielders and often tend to operate more centrally, making it difficult for the opposition to mark. Like against Hyderabad in the previous match, Singh was through on goal foxing both the centre-backs and if it wasn’t for a last-ditch tackle by Asish Rai, he might have scored his second.
It is often said that most matches are won in midfield and if that holds true on Friday evening, East Bengal are set to have a long 90 minutes. The trio of Ahmed Jahouh, Rowllin Borges and Hugo Bomous is one of the best in the league and their opposite numbers must produce something extraordinary to keep them in check.
Steinmann’s role will be crucial as his credentials perfectly fit the bill to fight toe-to-toe against his adversaries. Moreover, it will not be surprising if Md. Rafique is thrown into the mix as he will bring in the much-needed steel and experience which might prove vital against the likes of Borges and Jahouh.
Guarding the final frontier
It had been a horrific 2019-20 season for East Bengal’s shot-stopper Debjit Majumder. After making schoolboy errors against Churchill Brother’s Willis Plaza, he was relegated to the bench by then Mohun Bagan coach Kibu Vicuna. But in this season, he has once again brought out the best and has made the most number of saves (40) in the league.
Credit must be given to goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms who has played an instrumental role in improving him. He has known the keeper since his time with ATK and believes that his agility is the most potent weapon in his armoury.
“He is not going to come for crosses at the edge of the box. It is not his strength. But he will make saves around the line. The more the team and the back four play with him, they understand his strengths and weaknesses. We work together as a defensive unit,” stated the goalkeeping coach in an interview with East Bengal’s media team.
Although, East Bengal have progressed in leaps and bounds their tendency to concede late continues to plague them. They have let in three goals in the last five matches and all of them have come after the hour mark. And a shrewd coach like Sergio Lobera would definitely look to exploit this chink in the armour.
Majumder is a vocal keeper who does not shy away from shouting instructions. Hence it is imperative that he must ensure that his backline continues to remain focussed all throughout the 90 minutes, as Mumbai will look to make the most of a slip in concentration.