Traditional heavyweights East Bengal and Mohun Bagan aim to revive their sagging campaigns and close the gap at the top of the table when they lock horns in the much awaited I-League derby at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Sunday.
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are locked on the same number of points after six games. While the former are placed sixth with nine points, the latter occupy the eighth position.
The 'hosts' have blown hot and cold under Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez with three wins and as many draws. In their last fixture, they got back to winning ways after three successive losses, getting past Gokulam Kerala FC here 3-1.
The transfer ban hasn't helped East Bengal with an injury to Mahmoud Al Amna, who has since been released, adding to the headache.
Now for the big match, Spanish forward Enrique Esqueda too has been ruled out owing to a rib injury.
All eyes will be on striker Jobby Justin who will lead the line with Spanish winger Jaime Santos Colado, who is set to make his debut, for support.
The 23-year-old Spanish winger has the pace to burn and also the tricks to dribble past a defender.
In the absence of Esqueda, the red and golds will pin their hopes on the Spaniard to light up the pitch.
Justin has been good in the air and if Colado is able to put in some good crosses from the wide areas then the Mohun Bagan defence might be in trouble.
Menendez was forced to include Kassim Aidara in his starting line-up in their last game as his defensive qualities allowed Lalrindika Ralte to move further up. It remains to be seen whether the same strategy is used in this game as well.
East Bengal have been sturdy at the back with Jonny Acosta showing good form. In the last match, the Costa Rican World Cupper was relegated to the bench against Gokulam Kerala and Salam Ranjan Singh was tested at the heart of defence alongside Borja Gomez. And the new defensive pairing did pass the test with flying colours.
Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, have only registered two wins this season and are yet to win here.
Despite having one of the best attacks in the league with Henry Kisseka, Dipanda Dicka and Sony Norde, the former champions have only scored seven goals so far.
Adding insult to injury, Norde will be out of the squad due to muscle tear on his left thigh along with dashing winger Pintu Mahata and defender Sukhdev Singh who are also ruled out.
In midfield, Sourav Das will look to continue his good form along with Japanese Yuta Kinowaki.
The last time the two sides met in the local league, it was a 2-2 draw.
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