Both red and gold have improved significantly since the start of the year. But can they produce a positive result against the league leaders?
East Bengal have yet to lose a game in 2021. After a campaign debut in the Indian Super League (ISL), Robbie Fowler’s men have gradually regained their marks in the competition.
The inclusion of Bright Enobakhare gave new impetus to the attack while defensively Danny Fox, Scott Neville and fit Debjit Majumder were more solid at the back. Meanwhile, Matti Steinmann effortlessly dictated the procedures in the midfield, which helped East Bengal appear calm and determined.
But, they’ll face a tough challenge when they see the horns against top-flight 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 number of goals (17), but have been just as economical in defense as they have conceded the least (4).
To get something out of the game, it goes without saying that Robbie Fowler’s men have to do their best. There must be a synergy between the collective and individual brilliance to triumph or at least stop the Islanders.
Each of the players in the defensive unit will be given specific responsibilities. The defense must face Adam le Fondre and also monitor midfielders like Rowllin Borges or Hugo Boumous who are running late in the box.
In large areas, a few individual battles are on the program as Bipin Singh and CY Goddard will face Ankit Mukherjee and Narayan Das respectively. What makes them more dangerous is that they swap positions with midfielders and often tend to operate more centrally, making it difficult for the opposition. As against Hyderabad in the previous game, Singh was on the end of the goal gnawing at both center-backs and had it not been for a last minute tackle from Asish Rai he might have scored his second.
It is often said that most games are won in midfield and if this is true on Friday night, East Bengal should have 90 minutes. The trio of Ahmed Jahouh, Rowllin Borges and Hugo Bomous are some of the best in the league and their counterparts need to produce something extraordinary to keep them in check.
Steinmann’s role will be crucial as his credentials fit the bill perfectly to fight his opponents. Plus, it won’t be surprising that Md. Rafique is thrown into the mix as he will bring much needed steel and experience that could prove vital against people like Borges and Jahouh.
Guard the last frontier
The 2019-2020 season had been horrific for East Bengal striker Debjit Majumder. After making schoolboy mistakes against Churchill Brother’s Willis Plaza, he was relegated to the bench by Mohun Bagan’s coach Kibu Vicuna. But this season he has once again brought out the best and made the most saves (40) in the league.
We must pay tribute to goalkeeper coach Bobby Mimms who was instrumental in his improvement. He has known the Guardian since his time at ATK and believes his agility is the most powerful weapon in his arsenal.
“He won’t come for crosses on the edge of the box. It is not his strength. But it will make stops on the line. The more the team and the four full-backs play with him, they will understand his strengths and weaknesses. We are working together as a defensive unit, ”said the goalkeeper coach in an interview with the East Bengal media team.
Although East Bengal has progressed by leaps and bounds, its tendency to concede late continues to plague them. They have scored three goals in the last five games and all have come after the hour. And a shrewd trainer like Sergio Lobera would certainly seek to exploit this loophole in the armor.
Majumder is a vocal guardian who doesn’t hesitate to shout instructions. It is therefore imperative that he make sure his bottom line continues to stay focused throughout the 90 minutes, as Mumbai will be looking to make the most of a lack of focus.