A Kolkata Derby clash between giants Mohun Bagan and Quess East Bengal (QEB) is never unimportant to their legions of fans, but the Sunday, January 27, 2019, face-off is more than a regular grudge match, given the previous result where QEB ran out victors, has an added layer of importance given the title is still within sights of both the arch-rivals.
QEB go into the game with the better returns this 12th Hero I-League season, but fans of Indian football know that all that comes to nought once the game kicks off at 5 pm IST at Kolkata’s Vivekanada Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK).
For the record, QEB is placed fourth in the league standings with 22 points from 12 games, while Mohun Bagan is sixth with 21 from 13. A win for either will help them cut down the deficit with leaders Chennai, who are at the top with 30 points from 13 games.
Mohun Bagan lost their former Head Coach Sankarlal Chakraborty after a home loss against newbies Real Kashmir, after which, former East Bengal gaffer Khalid Jamil was brought in, to turn the tide for the Green and Maroons.
The new boss understandably tried to play down the ‘boro match’ in the pre-match press conference saying, “I have come here to help Mohun Bagan and am not thinking of revenge. This is an important match. It is our home match, and we must get a positive result.”
He agreed that Haitian winger Sony Norde was key to the fortunes of his team. The star has been on a spaced-out comeback after a long injury layoff and has shown glimpses of his class, scoring four quality goals in the game time he has been able to cull out thus far.
QEB, on the other hand, have blown hot and cold, more hot than cold, and once again have the services of Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda, who started the season and missed a few games in between due to injury.
Besides Esqueda, they also have a heady attacking combination in the league’s highest scorer Jobby Justin, Spaniard Jamie Santos Colado, and Laldanmawia Ralte, the Mizo winger who scored in the first leg fixture at the same venue and has had a resurrected season so far.
Their Spanish coach Alejandro Garcia put up a determined front ahead of the Derby saying, “Mohun Bagan is a difficult match. We are focussing on the game. All the teams that are fighting for the title are difficult. But we are focussing only on the next match. We have to fight and get full three points to fight for the title.”
The pensive mood of the coach notwithstanding, the fans are sure to be in for a footballing treat, in what is rightly termed the Biggest Game in Indian football.