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I-League: Real Kashmir have something to play for, East Bengal very little

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
Keeping aside the uncertainty that preceded the match, East Bengal and Real Kashmir will have nothing but three points in mind when they lock horns in the I-League here Thursday.
However Real Kashmir has a more realistic shot at the title unlike East Bengal, who have lost valuable points in their two previous encounters.
Originally slated to be held in Srinagar, the match was shifted to the national capital two days ago in view of the prevailing "uncertainty" in the Kashmir valley following the Pulwama terror attack.
Both teams have fallen behind in the title race recently but mathematically they are still in with a chance, especially the 'home team' Real Kashmir.
Kicking off their debut season on a note that left many pleasantly surprised, Real Kashmir's form of late has been wobbly, having to contend with two successive draws on the road, squandering lead late into the game against a young Indian Arrows team.
After 17 outings, the Kolkata heavyweights are positioned second in the pecking order with 10 wins and three stalemates, while Real Kashmir find themselves a notch below with nine wins and six draws from as many appearances.
Both teams have 33 points each, with Chennai City sitting pretty at the top with 40 points, a cool buffer of seven points.
Considering the two away draws, Real Kashmir would be a bit disappointed to lose out on an opportunity to play in front of a familiar home crowd.
That they will be playing in a neutral venue could give the East Bengal outfit slight edge going into the crucial encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, against a team that played like anything but debutants for most part of the league.
Real Kashmir coach David Robertson was his optimistic self on the match eve, seeking to focus on the positives.
"Playing after so long (one game in three weeks) is good because the injuries have been cleared up. We have good momentum, getting results but having said that against Indian Arrows last week, we managed to get ourselves 2-1 up but conceded in the last moment," Robertson said at the pre-match press conference.
Real Kashmir's away record has been impressive and Robertson wants to maintain the record.
"We have been unbeaten away from home, have just lost two games this season so all that is a positive. Last week was a disappointment but there is no better way to bounce back than beat a team like East Bengal," the Scot added.
"We as club have to try and win this game and then it depends on Chennai City, if they slip up, we will be waiting but I don't think they will slip up. Before the arrows game we had a realistic chance."

The good news for East Bengal is that their key Costa Rican defender Johnny Acosta is available for selection after serving a one-match suspension.
Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda, who has scored important goals coming off the bench, would again look to breach the Real Kashmir defence late in the game.
Real Kashmir will look to Gnohere Krizo, whose 51st minute strike against Gokulam Kerala in the first week of February lifted his team to the top of the table, for goals.
Up against the Ivory Coast import, the East Bengal defence will have to be on guar and any potential slip-up could cost the team dear.
East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez said,"When you play so frequently you don't get the best from the players. It is bad for football. But we have almost recovered from the last match and are fully motivated. We'll give our best."

East Bengal will miss the services of forward Jobby Justin, who was handed an interim suspension along with Aizawl FC's Kareem Omolaja for their ugly spats during Monday's clash.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: Feb 27 2019 | 8:35 PM IST

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