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I-League: In-form East Bengal face spirited Real Kashmir


Press Trust of India Kolkata
On a high after winning three matches on the trot, East Bengal will be up against a spirited Real Kashmir in a battle for the I-League top spot at the Salt Lake Stadium here Friday.
East Bengal put their title hopes back on track with a 2-1 victory over hosts Churchill Brothers in their last match.
The win made it three in a row for the red and gold brigade after three back-to-back losses. They jumped to third spot, three points behind league leaders Chennai City with a match in hand.
The second-placed Real Kashmir, who stunned Chennai City in the last round, have two points more than East Bengal having played one additional match as both the teams will be desperate to bag three points to jump to the lead.
The I-League debutants are on a five-match unbeaten streak which includes a 6-1 win over Shillong Lajong and another morale-boosting triumph over Chennai in the last match.
East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez refused underestimate the league debutants.
"It will be a tough match and we have to be attentive. We are hoping to win and don't want to lose tomorrow's game. We have to fight for 90 minutes. We are confident. They defeated Chennai City so they are a tough team but we have to win," the Spaniard said at the pre-match news conference.
East Bengal will expect their leading I-League goal-scorer Jobby Justin, who has five goals from eight matches, to make inroads into the resolute Kashmir defence who have conceded the lowest number of goals (five) this season.
"Real Kashmir are a new team and a good team. We like to win all the matches whether home or away. So we will be going for full points tomorrow," the 52-year-old said.
They have recently acquired the services of former Bengaluru FC midfielder Toni Dovale, who replaced Mahmoud Al-Amna in the squad but it remains to be seen whether the Spaniard will be included in the side.
East Bengal will miss the services of Bali Gagandeep was sent off in their win at Churchill.
Real Kashmir's last defeat was against Mohun Bagan on November 20 as they will face the other Kolkata heavyweights for the first time.
Living a dream with Real Kashmir who have a realistic chance to win the I-League, David Robertson the coach of the side does not want to think too far ahead.
Terming East Bengal and Mohun Bagan two biggest clubs in India, he said: "It's an honour for us to be here. We want to keep our momentum going. We have to be realistic."

As for the availability of key defender Mason Robertson, who has been battling food poisoning.
"We have to check if he is fit. Mason is a big miss definitely but happy with the players who played last game.

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First Published: Dec 27 2018 | 5:20 PM IST

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